Senator Tom Harkin says the federal response to the hurricane has been “deeply flawed” and has opened the U.S. to international ridicule. Harkin has just returned from an overseas trip. “While this tragedy was unfolding, most of the time I was in Pakistan watching. No matter where you went it was on television…Everyone had a television, someplace, and focused on it,” Harkin says. “As I was there, watching it unfold, I had this terrible feeling of help and also I must add a feeling of embarrassment and being ashamed that our government was not responding more forcefully to this disaster.” Harkin is calling for Congressional hearings to examine what went wrong in the Gulf after the hurricane struck. “In other parts of the country that are vulnerable to similar natural disasters or terrorist attacks, Americans are saying, There but for the grace of God, go I, go me or my city,'” Harkin says. “It is important that those responsible for this systemic failure be held accountable.” Harkin says Congress must act quickly in a few key areas, and can follow some of the roadmap developed in the response to the flood of 1993 which struck Iowa and the Mississippi River corridor. Harkin says for example, the U-S-D-A must be able to meet the food needs of the victims and help hard-hit farmers in the region. In addition, Harkin says the federal government needs to extend emergency health care insurance to many victims. He says there’ll be long-term needs, such as small business loans to help those who’ve lost their livelihood. Harkin, though, says it will take more than the government to rebuild the area. “I say to my fellow Iowans and to all my fellow Americans, our prayers for the victims are important. But, as President Kennedy once reminded us, here on Earth ‘God’s work must truly be our own,'” Harkin says.
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