What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Decency in DC

Decency in DC Listen to this podcast

Republicans love to preach about morals and decency. Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on the importance of marital fidelity. Newt has admitted to cheating on his wife at around the same time the House was impeaching President Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Disgraced Republican Congressman Mark Foley resigned amid allegations that he himself had engaged in or attempted to engage in an inappropriate relationship with an under aged teen in the Congressional Page program. Foley had chaired the House caucus on missing and exploited children and was a champion of sexual predator legislation

Another fine example of a Republican behaving badly erupted on the House floor toward the end of March. This time it was all about what constitutes decency in Washington, DC.

Earning himself membership credits in the Bush–Shill-and-Mouthpiece-Club, Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Price took to the floor on March 27th to help stick it to the families struggling to put their lives back together after Hurricane Katrina. This compassionless conservative sought to restrict housing reconstruction funds for low-income families living in Katrina-ravaged areas of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

Price wanted to require the demolished local communities to raise matching funds before the Bush Administration provided financial assistance to these low-income Southern residents who are struggling today within horrendous conditions that federal dollars can help alleviate.

Mind you, there is NO tax base from which to raise monies for matching funds. Capiche?! None. Zip. Nada. Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor, whose district covers the entire Gulf Coast of Mississippi, eloquently informed Mr. Price of the dire circumstances of life after Katrina.

“. . . little towns like Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, that have no tax base because their stores were destroyed in the storm, a county like Hancock County, where 90% of the residents lost everything, or at least substantial damage to their home, he wants to punish Bay St. Louis, he wants to punish Waveland, he wants to punish Pass Christian for mistakes of the Bush dministration.”
[See the video. Quite an education in Republican tactics, priorities, and values.]

Price, an obvious compassionless conservative Bush crony, has not even had the decency to visit any of the many Katrina-ravaged communities. He is speaking without understanding what the situation is. Perhaps he doesn’t care what the situation is down here on the ground.

Nevertheless, he had the audacity to cloak his disdain for the good people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans through feigning concern for government waste, fraud and abuse. [Read: Investing federal tax dollars in rebuilding New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is waste of money.] Since Democrats represent these good people in Congress, the people's house, Price's display of Republican charity reveals a partisan tinge. Price’s amendment failed in a 98-333 vote.

The first day I arrived here in Bay St. Louis, my younger brother drove me around to see what life is like some 19 months after the storm. Going down Beach Boulevard, he whipped into a dirt driveway and parked. This was the lot where Congressman Gene Taylor‘s home had been before Katrina destroyed it completely. In the back of the lot, new construction for a home was evident. Up the stairs we went. The Taylors were working on their home.Margaret Taylor, the congressman’s wife, told me that during the storm, they had gone to stay with family . . . and today that is where they remain.

The Taylors have received not one dime of insurance money. Not a dime.

As Margaret and I spoke, the congressman was busy hammering away. They are building their tiny home themselves literally. [See Sidebar: Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor—Sticks and Stones: Rebuilding Our Future] In front of Congressman Taylor's house is a hand-painted sign that express clearly his sentiments: “Allstate & State Farm, Axis of Evil.”

Congressman Gene Taylor's sign in his front yard of what used to be his home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Photo by Ana Maria Rosato taken May 25, 2007.

So when an obtuse individual holding the power of a congressional office pretends to be concerned mostly that the families whose incomes, homes, jobs, and places of worship have been demolished by Katrina may engage in waste, fraud, and abuse rather than worrying about the families themselves, Taylor’s response becomes understandable.

Immediately, right there on the floor of the House of Representatives, Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor filleted Price expertly. [Watch the video.]

"If you want to look for Katrina fraud, look for the Katrina fraud that was perpetrated by the Bush administration. In south Mississippi at one point we had 40,000 people living in FEMA trailers, we're grateful for every one of them. But those trailers were delivered by a friend of the president by the name of Riley Bechtel, a major contributor to Bush administration. He got $16,000 to haul a trailer the last 70 miles from Purvis, Miss., down to the Gulf Coast, hook it up to a garden hose, hook it up to a sewer tap, and plug it in, $16,000. So the gentleman never came to the floor once last year to talk about that fraud.

* * * Mr. Price, I wish you'd have the decency, if you're going to do that to the people of south Mississippi, that maybe you ought to come visit south Mississippi, and see what has happened, before you hold them to a standard you would never hold your own people to, and that you fail to hold the Bush administration to."

Then Price had the nerve to demand that Taylor’s remarks be stricken from the record AND take away for the rest of the day, Taylor’s ability to speak on the House floor.

Why? Taylor used the word “decency.” That’s right. Price wasn’t concerned about the indecency of his own proposal. He wasn’t concerned about the indecent conditions that the good people living in Katrina ravaged country endure daily because of the Bush Administration's despicable and deliberate neglect.

Price was concerned with etiquette and courtesy extended to himself. As you watch the clip, notice how Price’s hissy fit over etiquette and courtesy ended up interrupting congressional action by well over an hour. His indecent proposal wasted time and money while insulting every family and business owner on the Gulf Coast and within the New Orleans area. Immediately, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced a motion to restore Taylor’s right to speak for the rest of the day, and Frank’s motion passed on a 265-160 vote. Republicans objected to the decency of restoring Taylor's speaking privileges. Afterall, Taylor actually knows first hand of Katrina's ravages and the suffering of families here on the ground. God forbid that they have to endure hearing how the federal government can be a force for good in the lives of these American families, business owners, communities.

Price should have been ashamed of himself for the indecency of demonstrating to the world his uninformed opinion and wholly uncompassionate position. It was Mr. Price who should have kept his own mouth shut for the remainder of the day.

He should have immediately made arrangements to take leave of absence from his office to come down here to see for himself what the situation is. Frankly, he should try living for weeks or months on end in one of those FEMA trailers. You may be thinking that these are house sized trailers. Surprise! They are more like camper trailers in which families and extended families have been living since the storm.

Personally, I am appalled at the indecency that the Bush Administration and its congressional cronies continually display. Decorum over decency, that’s what Price and his ReTHUGlican buddies advocated that day in March.

What everyone down here needs is decent leadership from a White House that will demonstrate it cares by moving heaven, hell, and earth to rebuild our communities, our towns, and our beloved New Orleans.

Rather than a lesson in congressional etiquette, Mr. Price, the folks down here need real federal leadership and federal money that actually gets where it was intended to go and does what it was intended to do. Since Price and some of his Republican buddies have no clue what to do to
rebuild with compassion, here’s a novel idea.

Ask Congressman Gene Taylor what it is going to take.

In the meantime, the rest of us can act on the advice that the great Molly Ivins provided. In her column Time to go long, Molly Ivins, another Southern hero of mine, said it best. "Sit up, join up, stir it up, get online, get in touch, find out who's raising hell and join them. No use waiting on a bunch of wussy politicians."

She must have had in mind politicians like Price.

From one hell raiser (yours truly) to the next (that would be you, dear beloved reader), how’s about calling your congressional representative to request that she/he seek Taylor’s advice on how to rebuild on the Gulf Coast and to collaborate with him. Heck, let's go one better and
provide Taylors' office number in Washington, DC. 202 225-5772. Most likely you'll be talking with a staffer when you call. Here's a script you can use. Look up here your representatives contact information.

Letting your fingers do the walking is an easy way to do an important and effective political activity. Call your reps and just ask them to listen to Congressman Taylor, because . . . it’s the decent thing to do.

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