My wife is a clinical psychologist who volunteered to greet and counsel victims of Hurricane Katrina at the D.C. Armory. When she greeted evacuees from New Orleans, she felt shame about the federal government's lack of response and sadness for the extreme loss and pain that is the result along our Gulf Coast.

In his Sept. 7 op-ed, "The 'Stuff Happens' Presidency," Harold Meyerson described the conservative agenda to diminish government services at the expense of the poor and to reduce the cost of government to the benefit of the wealthy. The wealthy have the means to take care of themselves, to buffer their losses during disasters. The poor do not and have borne the disproportionate brunt of this tragedy.

As Mr. Meyerson noted, previous FEMA leader and Bush appointee Joe M. Allbaugh characterized the Federal Emergency Management Agency as "an oversized entitlement program." The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' projects to shore up the New Orleans levees never made it into the president's budgets.

The attitude that prevails in the Bush administration -- less government, less infrastructure, less health care, less environmental protection and fewer emergency services -- combined to inflict unprecedented loss along our southern coast.

The tax cuts for the rich, trimmed-down government and "faith-based" initiatives to take up the slack seem to be the administration's goal, but look at the results. The poor are more vulnerable, and the rest of us feel the shame of letting them down.




Harold Meyerson lamented that the United States is 34th among nations in infant mortality under the Bush administration. The CIA World Factbook, however, ranks the United States 42nd, with 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births (2005 estimates).

Since 1998, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked the United States 28th, this country has been surpassed by other nations such as Cuba and Aruba.

Even that depressing fact hides the reality of regional and economic disparities. For example, the District has almost the same number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births as Macedonia, the most impoverished of the former Yugoslav republics. The most recent race-specific statistics from the CDC show that infant mortality among African Americans nationwide is on par with that of the island of Dominica -- just better than Sri Lanka, but slightly trailing St. Lucia.


Chelsea, Quebec