Center for American Progress

New Start New Orleans: Good Jobs for a Better Gulf
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New Start New Orleans: Good Jobs for a Better Gulf

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Perhaps the most important consensus emerging in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is the importance of rebuilding in a way that addresses the chronic poverty of the people in affected areas of the Gulf Coast. Congress, state and local leaders now face critical decisions about how actually to proceed with this urgent goal. It is time to coalesce around the best ideas, whether Republican or Democrat – from the right, left, or center – and get to work.

There is no shortage of proposals about how to proceed; each day brings new ones. President Bush has proposed that as many of the rebuilding jobs as possible should go to the men and women who live in the region and that local people should be prepared for the jobs being created. These are excellent ideas; on the other hand, suspending the Davis-Bacon Act to allow sub-minimum wages and suspending affirmative action policies are not. In addition, the rapid issuance of no-bid contracts weakens the potential for reconstruction efforts to create a more equitable region over the longer term. At their worst, the Bush proposals manage to combine big government and big business, without a vision or strategy for how to build differently.

The most effective approach will recognize that both government and the private sector are needed, in new public/private partnerships that will help hundreds of thousands of people rebuild their lives and communities with dignity and enter jobs that will pay enough to support them and their families. This should happen throughout the region. Using New Orleans as an example, what would such an effort look like?

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