Saturday, September 10, 2005

Make do and Mend

Here’s a funny thing.

Hot on the heels of the news that our fearless leader is going to be robbing Medicaid to pay a fraction of the amount he’s giving away in tax benefits to the ultra-rich, comes another little piece of legislation I wasn’t even aware of until today, and I doubt many others had gotten the heads up either.

There’s a little law, known as the Davis-Bacon law, which was enacted in 1931, and in essence, here’s what it says. Federal contractors are required to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where work is conducted. It applies to federally-funded construction projects such as highways and bridges. It should also apply to the federally-funded reconstruction of severely damaged areas in the Gulf States, such as New Orleans.

I see your puzzlement. “So?” you ask, “Isn’t this a good thing?”

And my answer to you, gentle reader is that yes, it’s a phenomenally good thing, because who wants their house to be put together by workers who are grousing over being paid less than the prevailing construction wages in that area, right?

Only…funny thing…on Thursday, the president decided to add insult to injury by suspending the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm. What that means is that the federal contractors can basically pay what they like to their workers while they’re undertaking the grand reconstruction of the Big Easy.

Aside from the immediate, knee-jerk reaction of ‘the guy is out of his head’ – a moot point, since we know he’s barking mad, one has to wonder why this law is being suspended for the duration by Bush’s own executive order.

Could it maybe have anything to do with the fact that two of the contractors who have already signed up to receive federal money to help reconstruct the area are a couple of names we know and love? Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s former – and some would say pretty current – place of business), and the Shaw Group ( with ties to Joe Allbaugh, Bush’s former campaign manager, former head of FEMA (Ooh…wonder how he landed THAT job!) and the person responsible for giving Michael Brown (aka the Horse Whisperer) his job at FEMA.)

Maybe it’s just my innate cynicism that makes me suspicious when two firms with VERY close ties to the government snag reconstruction deals under a federally funded plan on the same day that our fearless leader suspends a law which would have forced these companies to pay people working for them in that area a decent wage. Surely nepotism doesn’t stretch that far?

And maybe there’ll be flying pigs on tonight’s evening news.

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