People Get Ready

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Nagin’s temper tantrums

Posted by schroeder915 on May 2, 2006

Is the disconnect between Nagin’s brain and his mouth the reason why there’s no rebuilding activity in New Orleans eight months after Hurricane Katrina? Or does he just not think at all (ready, shoot, aim)?

Nagin displayed his childish behavior at an Aquarium of the Americas event Monday which brought together Forman, Nagin, and Landrieu:

Nagin strode into the room. The mayor walked down the line shaking hands with tourism officials, then skipped over Landrieu.

In a televised WWL debate later in the day, Landrieu referred to Nagin’s “inconsistencies and intemperate remarks”:

Mr. Mayor, and I will try to walk through this very respectfully, if you castigate the president, if you tell Congress they need ExLax, if you kick FEMA out and then bring them back in, if you’re having a difficult time working with the governor, if you’re having a difficult time communicating with the Legislature, eventually what tends to happen is people kind of back up a little bit and say, even if you have a personal relationship with one of those folks, how’s that actually going to work out over the long haul?

In that same debate, I found at least one issue where I disagree with Landrieu, but where I also disagree with Nagin:

In a nod to his liberal leaning, Landrieu suggested that he would support forgiveness of immigration violations for workers who were helping to rebuild the Crescent City.

Nagin responded:

You know, illegal is illegal, so I’m not supportive of illegal aliens or illegal immigrants working in the City of New Orleans.

First of all, since when is a pro-immigrant stance a “liberal” position (poor word choice T-P). Haven’t Republicans recently discovered this potential constituency? Or are they the “liberal” Republicans?

I’m liberal and in favor of giving immigrants a right to work within the laws of the land — but only in a market where workers have the right to collectively bargain for living wages; in a market where education isn’t only a right for the wealthy; in a market where teachers and social workers are valued as much as corporate CEO’s and basketball players.

Over the last 25 years since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been bashing traditional families by undervaluing work, and overvaluing capital. The problem is that capital is mobile. It doesn’t care if it supports an American worker or a Chinese worker, migrating to the places where it obtains the highest return.

Free market capitalism is brutal and, in the end, doesn’t necessarily lead to the best outcome (just look at what we’re doing to the planet with automobile usage). Capital investment needs to be reined in to work for a better future that includes improved communities and a healthier environment.

We need to start valuing, and adding value, to American workers, so that capital stays here. When Republicans start to get their priorities straight, and start fighting for a progressive future that embraces the changes which will be necessary for the United States to remain competitive in a much more dynamic global economy of the future, then we can have a discussion about immigrant worker rights.

Nagin and Landrieu both need to square their political stances on immigration with reality. Landrieu needs to fight for New Orleanians to return to work alongside immigrants — there ought to be plenty of work for everyone. I’d be in favor of a temporary work permit until the rebuilding is done. I do think this is a special circumstance, and issuing work permits will improve working wages for construction workers across the board.

Instead, what we have here in New Orleans is the Bush administration turning a blind eye to immigrant workers by not prosecuting violators, telling Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers not to do their jobs — or when they do, to only detain and deport criminals among immigrants.

Oh, you say … but won’t immigration enforcement increase the cost of rebuilding? I doubt it. What’s happening now is that contractors who use immigrants bid the same prices for work they would otherwise do with domestic laborers, but increase their profit margins by paying immigrant laborers less.

Nagin needs to fight for local workers too, but he’s the one who’s had emergency powers for the last eight months, and who only recently proclaimed that he would come up with a plan to find housing for locals to come back to the city and work. He should have done that in September. Instead, for weeks he forbade residents to return if only to look at their homes.

We need leadership. With all due respect Mr. Nagin, if you want to lead, then “get off your ass and do something!”

Finally, I have yet to hear either Nagin or Landrieu describe how public services and revenue shortfalls will square with a right for all residents to return. They both need to address that issue before the election, because if they don’t, then they need to be honest about who can and can’t return — and that will have a considerable bearing on who citizens vote for on May 20th.


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