Here is the letter from John Edwards on his New America Initiative. The WPA projects did a lot for America – many of them are still functioning. It is another way to “outsource” the government work with out giving it to the undeserving rich.
Over the past two weeks President Bush has failed in his response to Hurricane Katrina, and as a result thousands of Gulf Coast residents – most of them poor – have been tragically neglected, leading to preventable suffering and death. Our government let them down. Many of them lacked the means to leave their cities; our government failed to help them evacuate. In the wake of the storm many of these poor residents lacked food, water, and medicine. Several days after the storm had passed, many of them still did not have these supplies. A good friend of mine put it well: The often unseen poor, well, they are among us. We see them now. And it’s not just bad schools and an unlivable minimum wage and no healthcare. They don’t even have enough money to get out of the way of a hurricane. They had nowhere to go and no car to get them there. It’s a new attribute of poverty. Not enough money to get out of the way of a killing wind.
But government failure is nothing new for too many of these victims. Before Hurricane Katrina struck, twenty-three percent of New Orleans residents were living in poverty. The Americans who suffered the worst in this disaster are the Americans who always suffer the worst, because for too long our government has turned a blind eye to their plight. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster like this one for the government to see the reality that too many Americans are facing.
Today, the relief effort is focused on providing, food, shelter, and clothing to thousands of men and women. That’s the right thing to do.
But the victims of Katrina want more than life’s necessities. They want a chance to rebuild their lives. Many of them also want to help rebuild a city and a coastline that mean so much to them, and so much to all Americans.
We ought to give them the chance to help through a New America Initiative. This initiative, which is modeled after the Works Progress administration, would help them rebuild a devastated region and offer good-paying jobs and hope to the displaced. Join me and say no to President Bush’s failed leadership in a growing call to take this tragedy and turn it into an opportunity. It is not enough to talk about it; we will have to show this Administration that the real leadership means visionary action. You, one by one, can increase the power of the call to action by signing my New America petition here:
Every single signature increases the power of the call and the chance for real hope for our brothers and sisters. If anything good can come from this terrible tragedy, it can be a New Orleans and a Gulf Coast that represent the one America we all believe in, not the two Americas we’ve seen on television for the last ten days. And the way to build that one America is to help the victims of Katrina take control of their own destiny, with good jobs that contribute to the cause.
A little over 75 years ago, America was struck by a different kind of hurricane, the Great Depression. Like Katrina, the Depression left responsible and hard-working Americans without work and, often, without hope. After years when America did nothing, Franklin Roosevelt called Americans to action. He said something then that is still true today:
“These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”
Today, hundreds of thousands of Katrina’s victims have no money, no jobs, no hope. The Labor Department says it will create some new temporary jobs, but it’s not nearly enough for all these men and women. Work is what they want, and work is what they need.
We have done it before; we can do it again. But this time the vision is not coming from the White House, so it has to come from the people. It has to come from you. In response to the Great Depression, FDR created new opportunities for men and women to work through his alphabet soup of new agencies like the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today, we’ve got plenty of government agencies, but we need to adopt the same simple idea as FDR.
That’s why I want to reject the Republicans’ failed philosophy of taking care of wealthy insiders at the expense of everyone else. I propose this New America initiative dedicated to creating good-paying jobs for Katrina’s victims so they can get back on their feet, get the skills they need, and rebuild New Orleans.
In the meantime, it’s crucial that we continue to support relief organizations that are working with the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Here’s a short list of such organizations. Please give what you can.
In this crisis we’ve seen how detrimental the failure of Presidential leadership can be. But even in this horrible tragedy we have an opportunity to make life better than it was for thousands of impoverished Americans along the Gulf Coast. You and I see these opportunities because we’ve always been looking for them. It’s time that the President sees them too.