Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Politics

An excellent overview, one year later.

An excerpt.

The Tragedy of New Orleans
Katrina spending is five times larger than past disasters.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

"New Orleans has suffered from the trauma of three crises," says Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal. "First was the hurricane, second was the levees breaking and third has been the widespread incompetence of the federal, state and local government response. This has been a one-year case study in bureaucracy and red tape at its very worst."

Congressman Jindal's aptly stated charge of incompetence across all levels of government is the gentle assessment. Here, on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, are the views of prominent Democrats:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, touring New Orleans: "What is needed in New Orleans is public works projects." Senator Hillary Clinton, from a church in Harlem: "Our leadership has turned its back on those people who still need us."

Turned its back? As the chart nearby indicates, Congress has approved $122.5 billion for the Gulf Region, a figure incomprehensible in size to anyone but, well, a politician. The real wonder is that anyone is surprised, much less feigning surprise, that things are going poorly.

New Orleans' plight is not the result of federal underspending. Uncle Sam has spent some five times more on Katrina relief than any other natural disaster in the past 50 years. Both parties in Congress and the White House opted for the status quo by relying on federal bureaucracies to oversee the rebuilding effort. If Uncle Sam were deliberately trying to waste these funds, it is hard to imagine a better way than to funnel the money through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Both HUD and the SBA have been on the chopping block back to the early Reagan years….

… Given the famously ingrained culture of political corruption in New Orleans--a system designed to siphon public money of any sort away from its intended purpose--President Bush was right to call on Congress to convert New Orleans into a massive "enterprise zone." That included tax breaks for new business investment, health savings accounts for those without medical insurance, school vouchers for families located where schools have been ruined and a reappraisal of all regulations…

… For all the finger-pointing this week, Congress hasn't spent much more than a dime to clear away the debris of corruption, patronage, welfare dependency, high taxes and racial division of decimated neighborhoods. What is still lacking in the life of New Orleans is the vital architecture of local capitalism.