How to rebuild New Orleans? Pass more tax cuts.

And, believe it or not, allow drilling in Alaska and support school vouchers.

Published September 16, 2005 8:29PM (EDT)

You could be excused for imagining that September was a bad month for the Grover Norquists of the world -- you know, those "starve the beast" foes of big government who hold that nothing is more sacred than cutting taxes. The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and the ensuing rush by Congress and President Bush to pull out the federal checkbook and start firehosing cash into the Mississippi Delta, are pretty good evidence, after all, that there is a role for government. By the people, for the people, blah blah blah -- we need government to take care of the people.

Such wishful thinking, however, would be a sad underestimation of the determination of the hardcore to pursue their agenda in the face of any setback, no matter how catastrophic. A "WebMemo" published Sept. 7 by the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation makes it clear that the best antidote to Katrina mayhem is even less government.

Titled "From Tragedy to Triumph: Principled Solutions for Rebuilding Lives and Communities," the Heritage Foundation manifesto is a laundry list that reiterates every fevered hope of a ruling class that has suffered for far too long under the weight of onerous regulations and IRS savagery. New Orleans and the neighboring regions should be declared "Opportunity Zones" where the following recommendations can be followed: Suspend the minimum wage! Suspend environmental regulations! Repeal the death tax! Support school vouchers! "Repeal or waive" any Clean Air Act regulations that might get in the way of refinery building or highway repair. Allow more drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve!

(No joke: The Heritage Foundation believes that necessary steps to rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are to allow drilling in Alaska and support school vouchers. If nothing else, you have to give these guys credit for chutzpah.)

Now, there's something to be said for mobilizing all available resources to rebuild a ravaged region, and if that means getting a little casual with bureaucratic red tape, that's probably not too high a price to pay. But the Heritage Foundation's recommendations are so insultingly self-serving that they put the immediate lie to any notion that the actual well-being of the locals is the think tank's real concern. Instead, its interest, which for all intents and purposes is synonymous with the goals of the current administration, is the same as it has always been, to serve the greed of the few at the expense of the many.

And if the storm winds of Katrina weren't powerful enough to blow the blinders off the eyes of anyone who still doesn't see that clearly, then heck, bring on the Opportunity Zones! If you were shocked at the "Third World" scenes of devastation post-Katrina, wait to see what the region looks like after a couple of years with no rules whatsoever.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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