Editorial: Corporate looters

Shaw Group, Fluor, Bechtel, Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR are flocking like vultures to feast on the $62 billion or more in federal contracts to rebuild the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. These “no bid” contracts are nothing less than a looting of the public till.

Bush is sweetening the pot by suspending the Davis-Bacon Act for the region. The act requires contractors to pay the prevailing wage for any project funded by the federal government. The savings will flow into the coffers of these huge corporations, all heavy contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaigns and the Republican Party.

Already, KBR has grabbed a $500 million Pentagon contract to clean up damage done to Navy shipyards in Mississippi. Shaw was granted a $100 million to build temporary housing for some of the million homeless victims of Katrina. FEMA refuses to release any details on how these contracts have been negotiated.

Halliburton, KBR, and other military contractors have already been caught pilfering hundreds of millions in taxpayers dollars allocated for the occupation of Iraq. Estimates of “missing” funds range over $1 billion in Iraq.

We must demand that Congress halt this wholesale corporate thievery through emergency legislation. All bids for reconstruction must be open, with set-asides to insure minority contractors are not frozen out by the giants.

The scale of this disaster brings back memories of the Great Depression when the federal government intervened directly with a massive public works jobs program. It is hopeless to expect Bush-Cheney and the House and Senate majority leadership to enact a new New Deal. They see the pain and suffering of the region’s homeless million as just another opportunity for profiteering. But we can demand Congress enact a people’s watchdog committee to guarantee equitable allocation of federal taxpayer dollars and to insure that these funds flow to those from the Gulf region and to those who need it most without racism or discrimination.

The current crisis underlines the urgency of the elections next year, an opportunity to clean out the House and Senate and replace these right-wingers with lawmakers who represent the people instead of the corporate thieves.