WASHINGTON, D.C.—A group of some 100 Republican members of Congress have issued a report calling for the clean-up of Hurricane Katrina to be paid for on the backs of the nation's poor and elderly, as well as the increasingly strapped middle class. The caucus, which calls itself the Republican Study Group, has issued a report on budget options under the rubric, "Operation Offset," that calls for cuts in Medicare, education and the pensions and funding of health insurance for retired public employees.
"What this group is calling for is nothing less than breaching the covenant Congress made with the federal employees who devoted their careers to serving the American people-usually for salaries significantly less than those earned by their counterparts in the private sector," said John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). "Meanwhile, rank-and-file employees of the federal government are living in tents in Louisiana and Mississippi, wading through fetid waters, and working 12- and 16-hour shifts in order to provide relief to the citizens of the affected regions.
"And that's just for starters. All of America's elderly would suffer under the cuts for Medicare funding proposed by the Republican Study Committee. In fact, under this proposal, nearly everybody takes a significant hit—everybody, of course, but the wealthy, who would still get their tax cuts."
The proposal also includes—among others—measures that will affect small farmers, graduate students, children who rely on school lunch programs, small business owners, and communities engaged in urban renewal projects. It would also eliminate a fair-labor provision that guarantees the local prevailing wage to those who perform construction duties for federal contractors, as well as alternative fuel projects and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"It appears that in the wake of the worst natural disaster to hit the United States," said Gage, "a group of right-wing politicians think they have found an opportunity to prey upon the nation's must vulnerable populations. They call this fiscal responsibility. True fiscal responsibility is an attribute worthy only of a nation that serves the needs of the people who pay the taxes, fight the wars and keep the government working."