Two months after Sandy: Right wingers delay aid to storm victims
Source: Socialist Organizer
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 reconstruction efforts.
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