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The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project was proposed a few months ago by Prof. Scott Myers-Lipton, a Professor at San Jose State University, in California. His proposal captures, in simple language, a common-sense approach for rebuilding the Gulf, providing economic opportunity for Katrina survivors, as well as "restoring faith in the government’s social compact with its citizens."
This is a plan that should be embraced by every member of Congress and every American. It's a big, comprehensive initiative, but it's not a bloated program. It speaks to core American values of community and individual responsibility and equality of opportunity, while recognizing the importance of culture and history. And fundamentally, it makes sound economic sense.
There is no other plan that takes advantage of the economies of scale and available labor pool represented by the city's former residents for rebuilding. And it fits perfectly with the stated desires of officials at every level, who say they want to preserve the character of New Orleans and to make it possible for New Orleanians to return.
Here's the proposal as laid out by Prof. Myers-Lipton:
The GC Civic Works Project will hire 100,000 Gulf Coast residents to rebuild New Orleans and the surrounding region. The residents, who will be given subsidized tickets back to their neighborhoods, will build and repair houses, schools, parks, and other civic buildings and spaces.
The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project accomplishes 4 things:
provide our citizens with living wage jobs,
make housing available for themselves and their communities,
restore a sense of personal empowerment and hope, something which has been stolen from our people, and
restore faith among our citizenry of the government’s ability to respond to the needs of its people through a public-private partnership.
Based on a ratio of labor to materials of 80-20, and a wage rate of $12 per hour, the total cost of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project is $3.125 billion. The projected cost of wages is $2.5 billion, while the cost of materials is $625 million.
Note that $3 billion is roughly 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of the war each month in Iraq according to the Congressional Budget Office. And while the Iraq War has been plagued with graft and corruption, similar large-scale civic projects have operated in the United States with little to no corruption.
This is not the first time that the United States has faced massive social suffering. Our senior citizens, as well as our history books, have passed on to the current generation, the pain and suffering that so many people experienced during the Great Depression.
When Americans were faced with this crisis, the people realized that self-help initiatives alone would not solve the people’s problems, and they turned to solutions that got things done. During the Depression, people didn’t want a handout, but a hand up.
The U.S. Government developed the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CWA employed 4 million workers immediately in construction work (i.e., school repair, sanitation work, road building, etc.). Within 2 weeks of starting the project, 814,511 were on the payroll; within 2 months, 4.2 million were working.
The Works Project Administration (WPA) replaced the CWA. In its 7-year history, the WPA employed a total of 8 million people and its accomplishments were many: the WPA built or improved 5,900 schools, 2,500 hospitals, and 13,000 playgrounds.
The CCC provided the opportunity for 500,000 young men (ages 18 to 25) to work on environmental conservation projects at 2,600 camps each year. The goal was to employ restless and discouraged young men, many of whom had previously roamed the nation looking for work. In addition to their salary, the youth provided educational assistance.