Two months after Sandy: Right wingers delay aid to storm victims.
By John Leslie
This past week, the US House of Representatives passed a $50.7 billion
aid package, 78 days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged areas of the
northeast. During the previous session of Congress, the Senate had
passed a $60.4 billion relief package, which was then referred to the
House. The House adjourned before considering the question.
Tea Party aligned Republicans delayed passage of the aid bill by
trying to attach an amendment linking aid to cuts in the Federal
budget. Republican Congress members and NJ Governor Christie joined
Democrats in condemning this reprehensible failure to act. Several
pointed to disaster aid that had been sent to the states represented
by these members in the past. The bulk of the aid is for
infrastructure repairs and reconstruction, as well as funding for FEMA
grants to homeowners and to bolster Federal Flood Insurance.
New jersey’s fishing industry, which sustained $160 million in damages
will only receive a fraction of the necessary aid. The relief package
passed by Congress only allocates $5 million for both New York and New
Jersey for the fishing industry.
Two months after the storm, thousands are still waiting for help. In
New York, approximately 15,000 are still homeless. Thousands of homes
remain damaged or destroyed. Reconstruction and debris removal
continues. Many municipalities have had to remove more trash in a
short period of time than they usually dispose of in a year, putting a
heavy strain on resources. Mayor Bloomberg’s “Rapid Repairs” program
has only served a fraction of the homeowners who signed up for help.
Rapid Repairs was intended to get power and heat restored in a short
period of time, the truth is that only about a third (4200 out of
12,500) of homes have been repaired.
Mold and other toxic substances remains a real problem for
There were approximately 200,000 left homeless right after the storm
and there are not reliable figures on how many have returned to their
homes, but it appears that thousands in New York and New Jersey remain
homeless, either in hotels or other temporary housing.
Reconstruction in Jersey shore towns has proceeded slowly, with many
working class people struggling to rebuild. For example, in Manasquan,
NJ, 60 percent of the homes in town were damaged. Seventy eight
structures were condemned and an additional 56 are currently deemed
uninhabitable. Much of the reconstruction work is being done by
faith-based groups, including Habitat for Humanity. In contrast, the
casinos in Atlantic City were up and running within days of the storm.
In fact, the media in the region is downplaying the problems in order
to bolster the tourism industry at the Jersey shore.
charity is not enough!
As laudable as it is, volunteer efforts and charity is not enough to
rebuild the storm damaged areas of the northeast. What is necessary is
a massive public works jobs program to rebuild the region and its
infrastructure. This will require mass mobilizations to demand
emergency aid, jobs and reconstruction in the interests of workers and
oppressed people. A housing and reconstruction plan should be formed
with the active participation of all residents. All work should be
done at union wages and with full union benefits.
Responsibility for paying for this crisis should not fall on the backs
of workers and the oppressed. Workers and their organizations, either
in the workplaces or in the communities must mobilize to demand that
all U.S. troops and mercenaries be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan
and the money used to aid reconstruction. Taxes should be raised on
the richest one percent to help pay the cost.
In the longer run, given the increased threat of major disasters
caused by global warming, the entire U.S. economy must restructured in
the interests of working people with special attention to conversion
of the energy industry to sustainable sources. The energy and banking
sectors, too, will need to be nationalized under workers’ control.
Such a fightback in the interests of working and the oppressed will
require a break with the two parties of big business and the formation
of a party of our own — a Labor Party based on the unions — as the
first and necessary step to put an end to the predatory,
profit-driven, capitalist system that is responsible for these and
other crises the world over.
(photo from: Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post)