By George E. Curry -Guest Columnist-
Before the United States could target Iraq with its first Tomahawk cruise missile, a handful of companies–all with strong Republican ties–were already lined up at the government trough to see how they could divide up to $100 billion for post-war reconstruction.
Let me get this straight. We will spend $100 billion to $200 billion to bomb Iraq into oblivion. And after we’ve spent all that money to destroy a country about the size of California, along with our allies, we’re going to turn around and spend $25 billion to $100 billion to restore the country to its pre-war state? Who is going to rebuild America?
George Bush should visit some of our inner-city ghettos. He’ll see that many look as if they were attacked by bunker-busting bombs and e-bombs long before those high-tech weapons of mass destruction were deployed in Iraq. “Dubya,” have I got a deal for you: Just as you’ve done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, declare that our ‘hoods have been ravaged by war, and then line up your friends at the Halliburton Co. (formerly headed by the vice president) and the Bechtel Group to rebuild them.
Talk about “shock and awe.” Think how much you’ll save by not having to decimate our already devastated neighborhoods or bribe reluctant countries to join our lonely crusade. Since you’re the first U.S. president to ever favor a tax cut during wartime, you can even throw in some Jack Kemp-styled tax breaks for businesses to relocate to the inner city war zones. They can even sell “freedom fries.” That’s so fiscally responsible that the GOP-controlled House and Senate should go along with this idea. If you ask him, Britain’s Tony Blair may throw in a few coins.
If Bush wants to be a true patriot, he’ll focus his attention on the United States. He can skip the corny “wanted: dead or alive” speech this time around. The ‘hood is dead and bold action is needed to bring it back to life.
While we’re at it, let’s make sure journalists are “embedded” in this effort. Maybe Bush can keep them in bunkers until they learn to stop describing “race-conscious” remedies that help make up for past discrimination as being “race-based.” They may get so good that perhaps they’ll even persuade “Dubya” not to mislabel carefully-crafted affirmative action programs as quotas.
According to “Vision for Post-Conflict Iraq,” a 13-page document prepared for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States plans to rebuild 1,500 miles of “economically important roads and bridges” in Iraq as well as key ports, hospitals, schools and airports.
Experts say the $25 billion estimate to rebuild Iraq is conservative. While the White House refuses to supply a firm estimate, it is believed that the actual war will cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. It will cost another $20 billion to occupy Iraq for the first year.
We could do some real nation building with that kind of money. Let that nation be ours. If Bush doesn’t know how to spend the money here, let me give him a few suggestions:
- In 2001, 41.2 million Americans were uninsured. Those fortunate enough to be insured saw their premiums rise by 12.7 percent between the spring of 2001 and 2002. Those with and without insurance could use some help;
- There has been a 43 percent increase in the unemployment rate since Bush took office. Steps other than giving tax breaks to the wealthy should be taken to stimulate the economy. In the meantime, unemployment benefits should be extended;
- Under the president’s “No Child Left Behind” law, education was under-funded by $6 billion. All of that money should be restored;
- Reverse the trend of shifting college financial aid from Pell Grants to loans. Black Americans and Hispanics depend on Pell Grants at nearly double the rate of Whites. Further, Pell Grants, which covered 84 percent of college costs two decades ago, now cover only 42 percent of the cost. This would be an obvious place to shift focus and resources; and
- Increase funding to assist victims of HIV/AIDS, not only in Africa, but also here at home.
Additionally, children’s programs should be better funded and an initiative is needed to expand the supply of affordable housing. This is by no means my complete list, but it’s a start.
“Dubya” has already demonstrated his skills in rallying Americans around a cause. He should ask everyone to join him in this one. If people are recalcitrant, he should give them a 48-hour deadline. And if they don’t meet it, Bush will know what to do.
(George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service and BlackPressUSA.com.)