This morning's New York Times has an account of mounting Republican dismay with President Bush's Gulf Coast recovery program. Republican members, already concerned about huge federal deficits unrelated to the war in Iraq, are wondering how the government will pay for the massive federal spending program the President proposes.
In an address delivered from a hauntingly vacant New Orleans last night, the President sounded like Lyndon Johnson, at the height of both his war on poverty and the war in Vietnam. Mr. Bush announced that like his Texas predecessor, he was going to spend billions to pay for both guns and butter.
Democrats and some Republicans were quick to trumpet Mr. Bush's $200-billion spending program, including the investment of billions of federal dollars in rebuilding New Orleans. Other Republicans said that before signing blank checks, the Administration and the Congress ought to look for offsetting cuts to be made in federal spending. This would avoid throwing the budget further into deficit.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, as well as his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, endorsed the President's approach, saying basically that there is no time to look for offsets.
Whether Congress will debate the advisability of using federal money to rebuild New Orleans is unclear. But through Glenn Reynolds, we learn that in an online poll, Popular Mechanics has found that more than three-quarters of respondents are opposed to the use of federal dollars for resurrecting the Crescent City.
Of course, in opposing some of the President's spending plans, Republicans risk appearing mean-spirited. However, it's perfectly possible to favor using federal money to help Gulf Coast residents rebuild their lives and to fight the racism, classism, and poverty made apparent in the wake of Hurricane Katrina without contributing to the country's financial ruin or rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, sets in the inevitably-changing Mississippi Delta, is prone to hurricanes, and has a lake bounding it on another side.
The hurricane has past. The time for having an honest debate seems to be now. Whether it will happen or not is unclear.
For more, see the following: here, here, here, here, and here.