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

Monday, November 19, 2007

NPR Missed the Political Boat on Bush's Buyout Program

by Ana Maria

Last week, I became aghast at NPR’s story “Feds Propose Massive Buyout for Mississippi Coast.” What a remarkable contrast between NPR failure to provide a full picture of life on the ground here in Bay St. Louis—the target of Bush’s buyout and the home town of Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS), and Bill Moyer's reporting on PBS titled Recovery Gone Wrong? regarding the horrendous obstacles severely hindering our vibrant recovery.

NPR’s story didn’t air any response from Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS), who has been a tireless and outspoken advocate for South Mississippi’s recovery efforts AND who lives in the very town that is the target of Bush’s proposed $40 billion buyout boondoggle. I'm sure that Taylor would have been more than willing to interview about such a critical matter in his district, his hometown at that. Besides, he interviews well and makes for great quotes. Taylor’s public response to Bush’s proposal is more than telling and proves my point.

"Five words: 'It ain't going to happen,' " says Rep. Gene Taylor (D) of Mississippi, who's in the midst of rebuilding his Bay St. Louis home. "There's no money for it, there's no will for it, and there's no public support for it. That's 0 for 3."
NPR missed the simple fact that Bush’s proposed $40 billion federal buyout program has no Congressional support. However, NPR provided plenty of time for Bush's agency to spout the White House talking points on the matter. Yet, not a smidgen to Congressman Taylor. [Note to NPR: How about a follow up interview with Taylor to provide the balance that this story failed to achieve?]

NPR’s story also missed the bigger picture, which yours truly wrote last month in the Bay St. Louis political blog A.M. in the Morning!
Can it be merely coincidental that Bush’s buyout plan is targeting the hometown of the man spearheading the effort to ensure that whenever an American family or business owner purchases insurance for both wind and flood, that they actually get paid on their wind policy for the damages wind causes? In a word, no.
With so much airtime dedicated to the Corps’ mouthpieces, NPR didn’t apparently found not time to view the excerpts of Taylor's Insurance Reform Town Hall meeting uploaded on YouTube.

Not a single member of that panel talking before a standing-room only capacity venue spoke about a need for the federal government to wall off the beach and pay to haul us off of our land and out of our homes. Not ONE. Telling, isn't it?

Rather, everyone of the panelists—which included the local chamber, regional bank chair, and vice-president of the state wind pool—spoke about the fact that we need the ability to purchase a single wind-water insurance policy so that we can rebuild our homes, our lives, and our communities. They spoke of the immense hardship that the insurance industry has placed on the families and small business owners.

Had Bush ensured that the insurance industry live up to the financial obligations to its customers and actually paid off on the wind coverage of the homeowner insurance policies, the only kind of press that Bush’s Corps would be receiving would be the kind that mock its utter stupidity.

Rather the story could center upon this question.
Why on earth would Bush’s federal agency propose buying up homes and businesses that had already been rebuilt—to better standards, of course—and do so long after everything had been returned to normalcy, long after the party decorations celebrating the remarkably vibrant recovery been put away?!
So what is preventing our remarkably vibrant recovery? PBS reported on certain quintessential elements.
“ . . .critical to short-term recovery: construction-sector capacity; availability of funds to finance recovery; and an adequate supply of housing, especially affordable housing, for those whom the storm displaced from their residences.”
No one is suggesting much less saying that we need a $40 billion government home buy out program. No one.

However, what has actually occurred is an unanticipated, unstated insurance industry bailout. Yes, an unstated insurance industry bailout. The recovery hasn’t occurred because the financing that home and business owners had expected to receive from their insurance companies didn’t come through because the insurance companies essentially swindled those policy funds from us.

Last week, NBC reported on the Bush White House spending upwards of over $200,000 for many of FEMA’s formaldehyde-filled, Barbie doll-sized trailers—housing money that the insurance industry should have paid out of the cost of living end of the homeowner insurance coverage. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in which it had analyzed FEMA costs for trailers in Mississippi only. It found $30 million in wasted funding here in Republican Governor Haley Barbour’s state.

PBS reported that Barbour, the once powerful corporate lobbyist and former RNC chair, had successfully gotten his strong connections in DC to waive many of the requirements on the federal money Congress had allocated for Mississippi’s recovery. Other states, such as our neighboring Louisiana, were not afforded this luxury.

Of course, here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we have no sense of luxury. Heck, from homes to gas stations, essentials remain absent. Plenty of families remain unable to go home for their home remains uninhabitable or non-existent. There still remains not a single gas station along the 30 plus beach front miles on Highway 90 from Pass Christian to Biloxi, Miss.

What Barbour has done of late is propose scurrying away $600 million of the lower income housing funds to pay for the rebuilding and expansion of the state’s port in Gulfport, Miss.

Look, everyone wants that port rebuilt, and expansion sounds pretty good, as well. Just not on the backs of the lower income families in South Mississippi.

As PBS pointed out, as the once powerful corporate lobbyist and former powerful chair of the Republican National Committee, Barbour has access to plenty of capitol without touching the money Congress had intended for the housing needs for South Mississippi lower income families. Barbour can surely to goodness find the money for the expansion from elsewhere and not steal away the dreams of Mississippi families rebuilding their homes and coming back to their lives built up over years here in South Mississippi.

NPR also mentioned that the Corps talked to 20 people at its Gulfport meeting. Again NPR failed to mention that the Corps’ meeting here in Bay St. Louis drew a crowd of many hundreds furious at the idea of walling off our town and hauling off its residents—and the Corps had very poorly advertised the meeting. Imagine the turnout if it had actually wanted us to know of its secret program?

The real story is that the Corps of Engineers would not have a political leg to stand on had Bush merely used the bully pulpit to bully his corporate buddies in the insurance industry to pay up on their financial obligations regarding the wind coverage of home and commercial business owners’ insurance policies.

Bush should have leveraged the power of the bully pulpit to call press conferences which would have been viewed on every television news program, read in every newspaper, and heard on every radio program. Bush should have banged the drum that the American people expect the ‘good hands’ and ‘good neighbor’ companies to do right by the American families and businesses, families and businesses that continue to be responsible for the profits those companies fully enjoy . . . THEN we wouldn’t be having any discussion of how NPR missed the proverbial boat on the story’s real context regarding Bush’s politically-motivated, revenge-filled buyout plan.

What's the revenge part?

In September of this year, Taylor has already successfully led the effort to successfully pass overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives and with bi-partisan support (263 - 146), his landmark legislation to provide wind coverage as an option to the nation's flood insurance program. It is only a matter of time before it passes the Senate and is signed into law by the President--even if it means we wait until 2009 with a Democratic President of the United States in the White House.

Taylor's landmark Multiple Peril Legislation protects home and business owners from the ravages of Big Insurance greed. Corporate greed is like oxygen to the Bush Administration's Big campaign contributors. Taylor's legislation potentially removes billions of dollars of profit, which the greedy gutted goons in insurance corporations have been able to swindle from us carte blanch.

Targeting Taylor's hometown with a bogus $40 billion buyout program is political revenge straight out of Karl Rove's political playbook.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
Return to A.M. in the Morning! Home

No comments: