PLAYING POLITICS….Remember back in October of 2002, when George Bush took a careful look at the Department of Homeland Security ? an organization originally proposed by Democrats ? and tried to figure out how he could gin up some pre-election Democratic opposition to creating it. His answer was to insert a bit of strategic union busting into the DHS bill, something that he knew no Democrat could possibly support. Voila! Democrats opposed the bill and the president accused them of not caring about national security. That was good for a pickup of two seats in the Senate.

Fast forward to September 2005. What would be a good way of trying to gin up some Democratic opposition to reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? How about some more union busting?

One action Bush did not trumpet publicly drew a quick protest from a leading Democrat. By executive order, Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act in areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, allowing federal contractors to pay less than the local “prevailing wage” on construction projects.

Rep. George Miller of California, senior Democrat on the House committee that oversees labor law, said the move would allow employers to pay “poverty wages” as they rebuild from the hurricane.

“The administration is using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives,” he said in a statement, noting the prevailing wage for construction in New Orleans was about $9 an hour. “At under $9 an hour, workers certainly won’t be able to rebuild their livelihoods,” he said.

It’s a good thing we have a president who doesn’t believe in playing politics, isn’t it?

NOTE FOR THE MATH CHALLENGED: $9 an hour is about $18,000 a year. The prevailing wage wasn’t about to create any new millionaires on the Gulf Coast.

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