Bring It On

The reaction from liberals to Bush’s proposed War on Bayou Poverty has been outrage that Republicans would take advantage of the tragedy to advance their ideological agenda. Democratic leaders are upset about the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, sacred to unions, which requires the federal government to pay prevailing wages to workers. They’ve also denounced Bush’s proposal to provide school vouchers to students displaced by the storm and the suggestion that Karl Rove might run the rebuilding show.

This is precisely the wrong response. Liberals, who have failed to muster any kind of social consensus for a major federal assault on poverty since LBJ’s day, should welcome conservatives as converts to the cause. They should hold back on their specific objections—some of which are valid, some of which are not—and let Bush have his way with the reconstruction. Making New Orleans a test site for conservative social policy ideas could shake out any number of ways politically. But all of us have a stake in an experiment that tells us whether conservative anti-poverty ideas, uh, work. If the conservative war on poverty succeeds, even in partial fashion, we will all be better for its success. And if it fails, we will have learned something important about how not to fight poverty.

more from Jacob Weisberg at Slate here.