- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

MIAMI (AP) — Race was a factor in the death toll from Hurricane Katrina, Howard Dean told members of the National Baptist Convention of America yesterday at the group’s annual meeting.

The Democratic National Committee chairman made the comments to the Baptists’ Political and Social Justice Commission. The convention, with an estimated 3.5 million members, is one of the largest black religious groups in the country.

“We must … come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a deadly role in who survived and who did not,” Mr. Dean said.

Mr. Dean said Americans have a moral responsibility not to ignore the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina when it struck the Gulf Coast.

The former presidential candidate said the government will be judged by how it treats the old, the young and the poor.

“People are poor in different parts of the country. They are not refugees. They are Americans,” he said.

Mr. Dean said that instead of considering proposed estate-tax breaks, the Senate should channel the money into disaster relief.

“Shall we give that to the wealthiest people in the country, or should we rebuild New Orleans?” he said.

Mr. Dean also urged the government to exempt victims of the hurricane from a stricter new bankruptcy law for one year.

Ken Mehlman, Mr. Dean’s counterpart at the Republican National Committee, said he hoped the Democrat “will match his rhetoric with his support for reforms that replace bureaucracy and entitlement with hope and opportunity.”

Stephen J. Thurston, president of the Baptist convention, said there was a lack of response and sensitivity by the government after the Gulf Coast disaster.

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