In December 2005, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., used his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to limit any state’s share of $11.5 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants to no more than 54 percent. Louisiana leaders objected, arguing that the aid for states hit by the hurricanes should be awarded based on damage estimates compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA reported that a whopping 73 percent of the housing units that suffered major and severe damage in Katrina and Rita were in Louisiana. Looking only at damage in the two hardest-hit states, Louisiana had 77 percent of the damage.
Time and again since, Congress and agencies in Bush’s executive branch have ignored Louisiana’s contention that money should be distributed based on relative damage. In almost every measure of loss – from building counts to property values, from hospitals shuttered to fishing businesses destroyed to colleges and universities closed – the money has not matched Louisiana’s share of the damage.
It’s hard for the average working stiff to contemplate a number as vast as the $23.5 billion the federal government has allocated to Mississippi for Katrina recovery.
Think of it this way:
It’s enough money to buy two average-sized houses for each of the 65,000 families in Mississippi who lost their homes.
And, there would be enough left over to buy each family a brand-new Honda Accord to drive between their two $166,000 houses. That’s the EX-L, V-6 four-door sedan Accord, with all the extras and navigation, not a base model.
It’s enough to give each man, woman and child in the three southernmost counties $68,500 apiece. Or, to look at it another way, federal Katrina spending in Mississippi will cost each person in the United States about $94.
Meanwhile, entire neighborhoods in New Orleans remain abandoned, and will probably remain so.
I certainly hope the Democrats hammer the Katrina issue hard because it’s a macrocosm of how government fails us when we need it the most.
Yeah, I’m loathe to buy into the OMG REPUBLICAN HATRED here because I’m convinced the Democrats would be just as bad; more money would get allocated and it would disappear into the maw of bureacracy and special interest payouts.
However it was on the Republican’s watch and they fucked it up massively, so they deserve all the knocks they will get.
A true libertarian would simply assert that, well, that’s what New Orleans gets for building a city under sea level. I’m not that hardcore a libertarian. We have a government for a few good reasons, and directing the national interest into reconstruction during disasters is one of them. It’s one of the few things government SHOULD be doing which is why it pisses me off when they screw that up. Especially the apparent gerrymandering of disaster relief down political lines. That’s criminal. Literally criminal. Too bad it’s the people who make the laws that did it.
Eh, I don’t really agree. I know that a lot of people like to think that “libertarian” is synonymous with “anarchist” and that everything should be solved sans government, but I suspect that most libertarians would say that disaster relief is a legitimate function that we should expect our government to provide. Ditto for maintaining infrastructure like roads and bridges, if you want to include a more recent disaster. They might also argue that if government didn’t spend so much time and money on things that it has no business being involved in, then maybe it would have more time and money to devote to its legitimate responsibilities.
That’s a really good theory. I can just see George Bush next to Lake Pontchartrain, summoning Leviathan to crush the city for his RICH FRIENDS. Actually, that would be the best Final Fantasy plot twist ever, as well.
Yeah, and part of me wants to be outraged, and part of me thinks “wow, I never realized what a corrupt, defunct cesspool New Orleans had become” - rebuilding New Orleans just like it was before seems like a bad idea.
Even pre-Katrina, New Orleans had such endemic problems (crappy school systems, unemployment, crime, etc) shuffling the deck doesn’t seem like a particularly bad idea.
I’ve recently been down to the places in Mississippi that were hit, and I can assure you that everyone isn’t in a new mansion driving a BMW. Just where I was, a couple of the schools still lacked having the plumbing completely restored, many people still aren’t back in homes, many businesses are still struggling to rebuild, a lot of people have had their lives completely destroyed. I don’t know where the money is being spent, but the people there are still in dire need, even though New Orleans gets all the press (and has since the day the hurricane hit.)
Go to the Weather Underground and look at Waveland / Pass Christian photos. They just don’t need new houses, they need the entire town rebuilt. Sewer, electric, communications, everything. It was just slabs and trees after the storm. Takes lots of bucks to rebuild that.
I live in New Orleans and work at a local hospital that stayed open throughout the storm and afterwards. I understand how bad the other neighborhoods were hit. I live Uptown and suffered only cosmetic damage – the fish in my aquarium survived 6 weeks without power! The difference for New Orleans is that we weren’t really hit all that bad by the storm, we just had levee failures. If they were actually at the specifications the Corps of Engineers told us they were, significantly less flooding would have occurred.
Waveland and Pass Christian were unavoidable disasters. New Orleans could have been avoided. Nationwide people just assume that we “live in a bowl below sea level” and this stuff’s going to happen. It makes people less happy about funding heading our way. Of course, 90% of the US population lives in an area at moderate to high risk for either hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, terrorism or other disasters. It will happen to you sometime too, and you’d best hope your governor is from the same party as the President. Oh, and that your political tradition isn’t graft.
I’m guessing that the spirit of that law was to prevent a situation where a state with a relatively small section of very expensive real estate gets the lion’s share of aid from a large area of low value real estate in another state. Which seems to have good intentions but is completely broken in the Katrina situation.
Well, during the Clinton years (as someone else pointed out), FEMA was very competent and generally got help to the people that needed it.
Venice, Italy is a city which is in as much if not more danger of getting fucked over by floodwaters as New Orleans. And the Italian government is notoriously corrupt and useless. But for some reason they have been studying the issue for a long time, and got top engineers to design a system (its called MOSE, google it and read all about it) to protect the city, a far more advanced system than some fucking levees, and are willing to pay for the system.
Meanwhile, a country far richer, with supposedly better governance, sticks with these piece of shit levees and the ACE can’t even guarantee the ones they are building for “The Big One”, which Katrina was not. There’s an article in the new TIME about it.
There comes a point when this “pox on both their houses” shit doesn’t really apply. I think this is one of those times, I mean, you can say you think Democrats won’t fix the problem but, umm, it’s not like they were in charge when this happened, and it’s not like the White House is giving them a seat at the table for reconstruction work.
Venice was a serious cluster-fuck of politics (just like everything else the government touches there) for years and years before they got any semblance of a real workable plan together. Also, they don’t have to worry about hurricanes.
If you really want to feel outdone in the flood prevention department, Google the Delta Works, in the Netherlands. Constructed over the course of 44 years, it basically protects the entire Zeeland province (which was prone to flooding disasters) from flooding. It’s estimated to reduce the flood risk to once every 10,000 years, and is probably the largest single construction effort in human history. The American Society of Civil Engineers consider it to be one of the seven modern wonders of the world.
FEMA under Clinton never had to deal with a couple hundred mile post-disaster logistic chain in one of our more ineptly run states. Katrina in 1996 would have been pretty much the same. Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics and partisans ignore both and focus on the politics.