Vouchers for Katrina Victims, September 2005

© Hazel Henderson,2005

The extended aftermath of Katrina will involve re-settling, re-housing and re-employing up to one million Americans. Katrina’s blow will likely shave over 1% from US GDP-growth and may bring on a recession.

The best way to head off this scenario is to rapidly inject additional purchasing power into our faltering economy by issuing individual vouchers to those needy citizens in Katrina’s wake. These vouchers would be quickly spent into the economies of the over-stressed cities and regions now accepting these victims.

The conventional Washington responses: cutting interest rates, more tax cuts or dispensing disaster funds through government agencies and sole -source private contractors may not reach those people in need. All such top-down approaches are less efficient than individual vouchers, while interest rates and tax cuts are scatter-shot, blanket policies that will fall too wide of the mark.

Vouchers of $25,000 to those who lost everything and $10,000 school vouchers for their children would also make these distressed Americans welcome in the receiving schools and communities. They would be earmarked for housing, schools, healthcare and vital necessities.

These vouchers would add some $35 billion to the US deficit (currently estimated to reach some $400 billion this year) but would dwarf our expenditures in Iraq. The vouchers could easily be paid for with a moratorium on further tax cuts and perhaps, rescinding those already given to taxpayers whose incomes top $200,000 per year. President Bush could also call for more private sector help, asking such fortunate taxpayers to voluntarily donate their tax cuts to a Katrina Voucher Fund.

Nothing could bring Americans together in a national healing and renewal more efficiently than such an individual voucher program. President Bush can appoint a Compensation Commission, similar to that for the 9/11 victims’ families, for those whose loved ones died in the Gulf States disaster, due to Katrina and their inability to evacuate due to disability, illness, lack of transportation or funds.

Come on, Mr. President, in this case, individual vouchers would gain wide support across the whole US political spectrum.

Hazel Henderson