When President George W. Bush recently rejected a U.S. Senate financing bill to protect the rescuers and victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 disaster, he repeated a mistake made by previous Republican administrations. They showed their arrogant and crass class interests and the voters eventually tossed them out.
This time Bush has gone too far, and his actions will cause death and long-term disabilities. He has rejected a spending package that would have given New York City firefighters the kind of communication system that, if it had been in place on Sept. 11, would have saved scores of firefighters from death. That would have cost the federal government $100 million.
In addition, Bush rejected a $90 million medical screening program that would have made it possible to screen every person – those assigned to work there and volunteers – for physical and mental health damage. Of that $90 million, $25 million would have gone directly to NYC firefighters.
Mt. Sinai Occupational Health Clinic has been the recipient of $12 million to screen rescue and recovery workers. This is only enough to cover about 8,000 workers. The other $90 million would cover almost all of the rest of the 30,000 workers. This would have been a nationwide program, since many volunteers came from other parts of the country.
All of these workers would be tracked to make sure that they would be covered for all expenses from illnesses resulting from the Sept. 11 disaster. This kind of medical screening and tracking can also ensure that the workers’ compensation rights of workers are not lost.
In addition, recent studies by the New York Academy of Medicine have revealed that the children of World Trade Center victims are suffering severe mental health distress. These children would have been covered as well.
What was Bush’s answer to questions about his veto of those spending measures? You guessed it, “I chose not to spend the $5 billion [the full appropriation] because, one, we didn’t need to and, two, it is important for this country to be fiscally disciplined as our economy begins to recover.”
Within 24 hours, Bush appropriated $30 billion to Brazil to head off the election of a progressive into leadership of that country. He anticipates spending hundreds of billions on a war on Iraq.
The growing anger toward the Bush administration, which will be culminating in massive numbers of peace demonstrations and expressions on and around Sept. 11, will send the proper message. But these protests must include the denunciation of the Bush administration and its partners in New York City and State, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki, for turning their backs on all the rescue and recovery workers.
Kicking Bush out of the White House starts with kicking the Republicans out the House and keeping them out of the Senate in this year’s elections.
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