I am sometimes given to fits of irrepressible optimism. When I saw President Bush’s speech announcing a Marshall Plan for New Orleans, I allowed myself to believe that this country would finally have a serious discussion about poverty. I was sadly mistaken.

In times of crisis, this nation has always rallied together to overcome any obstacle. Roosevelt expanded the income tax in 1942 so that those who could best afford to pay for the programs that rescued this country from the Great Depression did so.

President Bush, on the other hand, claims it’s unfair to tax the rich more than the poor and wants those who can least afford it to pay the most.

Hurricane Katrina was incredibly destructive, but its effects were made worse by the aching poverty in which much of the city lived. New Orleans was the poorest city in the United States. Over 25 percent of its residents lived below the poverty line, and half of all children in Louisiana live in poverty.

The poor suffered disproportionately from the effects of the disaster and the Bush administration has decided to do worse than nothing about it.

Kanye West is mistaken. It’s not that President Bush doesn’t care about black people – it’s simply that he doesn’t care about the poor. The god that President Bush worships rewards the virtuous with wealth and power – those who have neither must deserve their lot in life. To tax the rich in order to save the poor would be to subvert God’s will. Like Cain standing before God, President Bush looks at the suffering of the poor and asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Luckily for the nation, President Bush’s spectacular incompetence in the first days of the crisis has at least ensured that something will be done.

The President has regard for his own power and reputation if not for the lives of others. This has forced him to overrule the wealthy Republican elites who would prefer to let the people drown in the free market rather than involve the government in their lives.

The Republican Party is a creative organization and they’ve found a way to maintain their tax cuts for the wealthy and cover their asses simultaneously. They’ll simply cut spending elsewhere to pay for the relief effort.

Specifically, they’ll cut tens of billions of dollars from Homeland Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs. Only this last week the Republican leadership of the House decided to postpone a $50 billion cost-cutting bill so that they could cut deeper yet.

President Bush and the Republican Party chose to not repair the levies in New Orleans, but they could spend a few million dollars more on tax cuts for the wealthy.

Now they want the poor to pay to repair the damage. One can only imagine what Christ, who said that the greatest commandment was to “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” would think of the actions of these champions of “Christian” values.

McGaffey can be reached at amcgaffey@campustimes.org.

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