Thank you for writing me with your concerns about the cost of rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I appreciate the benefit of your comments and your suggestions for how we should pay for this effort. Congress has already approved more than $62 billion for relief and recovery efforts, and significantly more spending is expected in the months ahead.(Emphasis mine.) But he still voted against the Coburn anti-pork amendments.
The American spirit of resilience and determination demands that we rebuild the Gulf Coast, and we will. It is important, however, that we rebuild the devastated areas sensibly while being fiscally responsible.
First, we must resist calls for further tax breaks for the wealthy. Enacting more tax cuts, or extending the President's first-term cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, is simply irresponsible. As America faces growing deficits and mounting national debt, we cannot afford to drastically reduce federal revenue. And as working Americans struggle with higher gas prices and other costs, we must not shift the tax burden onto those who can afford it the least.
Second, we must look at government spending with a critical eye. That is not a call for cuts to programs that support our most vulnerable citizens. One of the tragic lessons of this disaster is that too many of our fellow Americans had already been left behind long before Hurricane Katrina hit. It would be counterproductive to pay for relief efforts by gutting invaluable poverty-fighting programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps.
Instead, we should revisit recent spending bills and examine the merits of money earmarked for special projects. For example, it is extremely important that our nation's roads are safe and in good repair, and I believe the transportation bill goes a long way towards reaching this goal. At the same time, money allocated for some projects might be better spent elsewhere, such as on rebuilding the devastated Gulf Coast region. Americans have indicated a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, and I believe that their elected officials should heed this call and be willing to return earmarked funds that are not absolutely necessary.
Finally, we have a responsibility to ensure that the money allocated for recovery efforts is spent wisely and efficiently, and that every tax dollar goes toward assisting the people devastated by this storm, not toward padding the pockets of no-bid contractors. To this end, I have joined with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to propose legislation that would require the appointment of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) within the Executive Office of the President. The CFO would review expenditures associated with recovery efforts before they are approved to better prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.
Again, thank you for contacting me about the funding of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. I believe that we can and must rebuild the Gulf Coast in a way that is financially responsible, and I will work towards that goal with your comments in mind. Please stay in touch on this or any issue of concern.
Friday, October 21
Here's Senator Obama's reply to my note urging him to cut the pork.