Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), the author of the Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery Act of 2007, understands the difference between hope and help: hope for a functioning democracy wherein all citizens are granted equal access to power and resources has always defined the modern Democratic Party; these hopes, however, will only attain realization through help, through the implementation of rigorous policies that redress the social problems from which dreams and aspirations not unparadoxically spring. Because Hillary is the only candidate who offers us hope with her Economic Stimulus Plan and her Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda, I intend to cast my vote for her in Saturday’s Democratic primary.
The $70 billion Economic Stimulus Plan Hillary presented on 11 JAN 2008 aggressively tackles all the economic problems currently besetting Louisiana’s struggling middle class. Here is a rough sketch of some of the highlights of her program:
- Invest $10 billion in extending and broadening unemployment insurance for those who are struggling to find work
- Accelerate $5 billion in energy efficiency and alternative energy investments to jumpstart green collar job growth
- Provide $40 billion in tax rebates to working families
Hillary’s plan not only provides tax rebates to middle class families who cannot meet their monthly expenses; it also stimulates growth in the manufacturing sector with economic incentives for green collar job growth in the alternative energy sector, a sector that can generate many jobs in our state with its capacity for solar energy, for hydroelectric power and for ethanol extracted from sugar plants.
Another economic woe Hillary’s Economic Stimulus Plan addresses is Louisiana’s looming housing foreclosure crisis, a crisis that can cost us over $498 million dollars in the next two years if neglected. Mortgages in delinquency in Louisiana as a result of unaffordable subprime mortgages have increased from 38,500 in the third quarter of 2005 to 46,800 in the third quarter of 2007. This is no small matter, for foreclosed homes affect the property values of neighboring structures. As a result, the amount of tax revenue available for our public school systems and other public services decreases. Hillary offers the following solutions to forestall such a crisis:
- Establish a $30 Billion Emergency Housing Crisis Fund to assist states and cities mitigate the effects of mounting foreclosures
- Take bold action to end the housing foreclosure crisis by placing a moratorium of 90 days on subprime foreclosures and by placing an automatic rate freeze on subprime mortgages for at least five years
Hillary is the only Presidential candidate to warn Bush of this mounting economic problem in March 2007, and she is the only Presidential candidate who has made the housing foreclosure crisis a central concern of her campaign. Moreover, she confronted investors on Wall Street about the predatory nature of subprime mortgage loans on 5 DEC 2007.
Hillary’s advocacy for Louisiana’s middle class does not begin and end with her Economic Stimulus Plan, however; she is also the first of the remaining candidates for President to offer a comprehensive program for Louisiana’s recovery in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in May 2007. In fact, the plan Barack Obama proposed in August 2007 and somewhat cynically reintroduced yesterday in New Orleans mimics Clitnon’s Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda. Here is a outline of Clinton’s program:
1. Elevate the Gulf Coast Federal Rebuilding Director
As president, Senator Clinton would take the federal rebuilding coordinator out of the Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy and put him in the West Wing, reporting directly to the president. She would meet with the Director weekly and grant him full authority to lead all federal participation in Gulf Coast recovery. The Director’s first order of business would be to conduct a Katrina/Rita Recovery Census –canvassing all federal assistance needs of Gulf Coast communities.
2. Cut Red Tape
Senator Clinton would take a series of immediate, concrete steps to move federal dollars to where they belong. She would eliminate the local match requirement for FEMA recovery funds. She would streamline and simplify the “project worksheet” process of securing FEMA public infrastructure grants, and deploy sufficient staff to clear backlogs. For priority projects, she would provide upfront seed funding to jumpstart rebuilding while applications and claims are processed. And she would direct FEMA to give the maximum flexibility allowed by law to schools, fire stations, and other critical institutions for creative rebuilding and renovation. She would also convene a state-local-federal summit to resolve challenges confronting Louisiana’s “Road Home” program, with the goal of removing the remaining federal obstacles.
3. Attract Workers to Rebuild New Orleans and the Region
As president, Hillary would create a Gulf Coast Corps, governed by a joint federal-state-local board. The Corps would have two tracks: (1) it would provide financial incentives to skilled professionals – teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. – to serve in high-need areas as identified by state and local officials; and (2) it would directly hire thousands of workers and apprentices – especially locals and those who left but want to return – to complete priority public works projects, as identified by the states. The first track would fill shortages of key personnel who perform essential services. The second track would provide well-paying jobs to restore and upgrade core infrastructure – fire stations, parks, hospitals, roads, sewer and water systems – so that businesses can function effectively and residents can reestablish their communities and reclaim their culture.
4. Rebuild A Reliable Hurricane Protection System So There Is Not Another Katrina
There are still clear gaps and deficiencies in the city’s hurricane defenses. Senator Clinton would immediately order an independent, stem-to-stern review of the Army Corps of Engineers’ plans and progress thus far. She would fully fund and expedite construction to ensure the city has reliable defenses this hurricane season, and would order the Corps to achieve Category 5 protection over time. And, because every 2 to 4 miles of wetlands reduces storm surges by a foot, she would require the Army Corps and other federal agencies to integrate a wetlands restoration plan as a vital component of hurricane protection efforts.
5. Expand Affordable Housing
In addition to addressing Road Home, Senator Clinton would pursue two specific policy initiatives. First, she would address the skyrocketing cost of insurance by: investigating insurance pricing and claims adjustment practices in the Gulf region; reforming the National Flood Insurance Program; reviewing the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption; and working with states to support their insurance programs. Second, she would expand the stock of affordable rental housing by: partnering with states and localities; funding new public housing developments; offering incentives to builders and developers; and providing direct assistance to residents who have lost their units, including those living in transitional housing.
6. Combat Rising Crime and Give First Responders Needed Tools
The murder rate in New Orleans has spiked, while the police ranks have dwindled. Senator Clinton would provide sufficient COPS and Byrne Grant funding to put two hundred new police officers back on the beat in New Orleans, to fill vacancies in prosecutors’ offices, and to help the city deploy new crime-fighting technologies and methods in partnership with local community leaders. Senator Clinton would also confront the challenge of interoperability by setting national communications standards and providing funds for equipment upgrades.
7. Build 21st Centruy Schools in New Orleans
The schools in New Orleans suffered hundreds of millions in damage, and remain in various states of disrepair. Senator Clinton would renovate and modernize school facilities through the Gulf Coast Corps. The Corps would also fill the large teacher shortage – officials are anticipating 650 vacancies alone in the Recovery School District. In addition, Senator Clinton would direct the EPA to provide technical assistance through its “Tools for Schools” program to help New Orleans build modern school facilities that are energy efficient, free of lead, mold and other pollutants, and designed to maximize fresh air and sunlight.
8. Revitalize A Lagging Health Care System
A recent survey reported that more than a third of greater New Orleans residents reported less access to quality health care than before the storm. As president, Senator Clinton would deploy the Gulf Coast Corps to rebuild hospitals and clinics, especially those that serve the under- and uninsured. She would recruit health care workers – doctors, nurses, mental health professionals – through the Corps. And she would provide Community Mental Health Block Grants to address a growing mental health care crisis.
9. Promote Smart Development
In addition to supporting and extending federal incentives to stimulate a thriving Gulf Opportunity Zone and to support small businesses, Senator Clinton would direct federal agencies to provide technical assistance to help individuals and communities build energy-efficient “green” homes and buildings, environmentally friendly public transit systems, and modern parks and recreation areas.
10. Revamp Federal Disaster Response So We Are Ready Next TimeTo avoid a repeat of the catastrophic failures of the Bush Administration, Hillary would immediately pursue two proposals she has offered in the Senate: elevate FEMA to cabinet-level status; and establish a Katrina/Rita Commission – modeled on the 9/11 Commission – to review what went wrong and what changes are necessary. She would modify the Stafford Act to add a Catastrophic Annex and would direct FEMA to work with folks on the ground to develop preparedness and response plans and lines of authority. As president, she will be ready to respond the moment a disaster strikes.
Most impressive about Clinton’s Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda is her commitment to the principles of Smart Growth and an infrastructure that provides protection from Category 5 hurricanes. Also compelling is her Gulf Coast Corps, a program of sustained support for Orleans Parish that is lacking in Obama’s proposal.
In the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, Louisiana needs more than just hope; we need help. And Senator Clinton offers such help with her proposals and her experience. Whether it be her truly universal health plan, her Economic Stimulus Package or her Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who offers Louisianans the assistance we need in order to recover from what has been a devastating eight years under George W. Bush.