The Wege swiped Krugman's column yesterday. Here's a choice lead:
The Bush administration likes to talk about all the money it has allocated to the region, and it plans a public relations blitz to persuade America that it’s doing a heck of a job aiding Katrina’s victims. But as the Iraqis learned, allocating money and actually using it for reconstruction are two different things, and so far the administration has done almost nothing to make good on last year’s promises.
Krugman's linking of aid to Katrina and aid to Iraq set us wondering what self-proclaimed budget hawk Gil Gutknecht (R-Wobbly) said about Katrina aid last year. Through the memory hole that is Lexis-Nexis, we came across "Hurricane Katrina; Footing The Bill; Bush says taxes won't be raised; He said Congress will have to reduce spending," in the September 17, 2005 Star Tribune. Staff writer Rob Hotakainen wrote:
As President Bush ruled out a tax increase, White House officials said Friday that the cost of rebuilding the Gulf Coast will add to the federal deficit.
And it quickly became evident that the president will have to convince skeptical members of Congress to cooperate. "You bet, it's going to cost money," he said at the White House. "But I'm confident we can handle it and I'm confident we can handle our other priorities. It's going to mean that we're going to have to make sure we cut unnecessary spending."
Facing a reconstruction bill that may top $200 billion, Bush said "it's going to cost whatever it costs."
The White House declined to say what programs might be cut to keep his promise to trim the deficit in half by 2009. And many members of Congress are wary.
"It is not my definition of compassion to simply write checks from the federal government and expect our children and grandchildren" to pay for it," said Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn.
He said that "real leaders would step up and say, 'Here are three ways we can help pay for it.'-"
And what three ways did Gutknecht come up with?
On Capitol Hill, Gutknecht suggested three ways to pay for the effort: delay the new Medicare prescription-drug program by one or two years, trim transportation spending and reduce the armed force in Iraq.
"If the president of Iraq is saying we can start drawing down troops from Iraq, then maybe we ought to start taking it seriously," Gutknecht said on his weekly radio show. "So there are a lot of things we could do in Washington to help pay for this and, frankly, I think we have a moral obligation to our kids to do this."
We know how well that draw down went, and how in June Gutknecht warned those wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq not to go wobbly. Until he went wobbly.
MN-01 seniors might consider how willing he was to delay their prescription program, flawed as that program is.
Those people concerned about the cost and risk of the proposed low-cost federal loan to DM & E could ask Gutknecht if he had it in mind when he talked about trimming transportation spending.
And a real leader might not chose to link a bill born out of the need to provide housing aid for Katrina victims to suppressing voter registration drives.
On October 21, 2005, the Strib reported:
"Housing bill contains a catch; A controversial proposal for an affordable-housing bill would bar nonprofits from applying for funds if they also help register voters."
Patricia Lopez; Kevin Diaz; Staff Writers
A proposed federal bill that contains the promise of up to $600 million a year in new affordable-housing funds also may include a classic Catch-22 for the state's nonprofit housing advocates and the more than 15,000 Minnesotans waiting for help with low-income housing.
Born in part out of a need to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the House bill would create a new fund that would tap up to 5 percent of the after-tax profits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation's two largest mortgage finance companies, which operate under a special federal charter.
But it wouldn't be only Gulf states that could reap the benefit.
Every state would share in the new funding, and housing advocates here say Minnesota's part could be as much as $20 million.
The same nonprofits that provide the bulk of very-low-income housing services could be cut out of the grants because they also provide voter registration services, as they are required to do under federal law.
Since passage of the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, nonprofits across the United States have been required to provide voter registration services to receive housing and other social service money from the states.
But they became much more active in 2002, becoming part of a voter registration drive that registered millions of new voters, many of them low-income.
A bloc of conservative House members known as the Republican Study Committee has expressed misgivings about what it sees as the liberal tilt of many low-income-housing groups. They have proposed inserting language in the new funding bill that would bar any nonprofit that engaged in voter registration in the last year from participating in the Affordable Housing Fund.
That has provoked a maelstrom of opposition from national antipoverty and housing advocates, who have mounted an intensive lobbying effort in Washington to block the restriction.
Faith-based charities that do work in both housing and voter registration are up in arms, too.
"I would call it the Non-Voting Rights Act of 2005," said the Rev. Willie Gable, executive vice president of the National Baptist Convention.
In Minnesota, the new restrictions could lock out from consideration the broad network of nonprofits that provide the bulk of housing assistance to very-low-income people.
"To say we can't help people with affordable housing if we help them participate in democracy is outrageous," said Marcia Avner, legislative director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Voter registration activities, she noted, are nonpartisan and scrupulously monitored.
Gutknecht, Kline support new rules
Nonprofits aren't alone in providing low-income housing. A number of for-profit developers work with nonprofits and others, or use tax credits to set aside portions of their developments for low-income housing.
Chip Halbach, executive director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership, said that while Minnesota has "a good number of for-profit developers," nonprofit housing organizations still provide the majority of services aimed at the very-low-income population. To jeopardize new funding to the thousands waiting for affordable housing over a civic activity such as voter registration, he said, is unconscionable.
But Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., one of two Minnesotans on the study committee, defended the voter registration provision. "I do not believe funds that are designated for low-income housing - or school lunches, for that matter - should be used for partisan political organizing," he said.
Angelyn Shapiro, a spokeswoman for Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who also is on the committee, said: "The idea of the [proposed] amendment is that housing money needs to go for housing, not for partisan political activities." She added, "That's not to say we don't support get-out-the-vote efforts."
Linda Couch, deputy director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the bill already has language that would prohibit groups from using the funds for anything but housing.
"This all makes us wonder if this isn't just an attempt to steer the money toward the for-profits," Couch said.
In Minnesota, about half of the $150 million a year the money the state spends on development of affordable housing goes to nonprofits and public agencies, said Rochelle Rubin, communications director for state Housing Finance Commissioner Tim Marx, who was unavailable for comment. The remainder goes to for-profit developers, she said. Rubin said the Pawlenty administration supports the affordable housing fund, but has taken no position on the voter provision. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., a member of the Finance Committee, said he voted for the bill in its current form, without the controversial provision restricting nonprofits.
He said that the potential conflicting requirements for nonprofit housing groups is "new information" and that he would look into it.
"It's important that we address it and make sure that people aren't put in a situation where one law is saying 'left' and the other is saying 'right.' "
The House bill was approved by the Financial Services Committee in May on a bipartisan 65-5 vote. But most Democrats are expected to turn against the bill if the controversial affordable housing provision is added.
In the Senate, Democrats' efforts to include an affordable-housing fund were defeated. Some observers say that the bill's prospects in there are slim without some kind of a compromise on the disputed provision on non-profits.
AT A GLANCE
- Congress is considering a bill that would steer much new money to affordable-housing efforts - about $20 million for Minnesota.
- Some House Republicans, concerned about what they consider liberal political activism among nonprofit housing groups, want to withhold the housing funds from agencies that also engage in voter registration efforts.
- Under existing federal law, nonprofit housing agencies must offer voter registration to get funds.
Voter registration partisan? Nice touch.
More September 2005 suggestions for Katrina relief from the Republican Study Committee here. Repealing prevailing wage standards and all the rest.