Total Political Failure

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I know many will disagree with me, but must agree with Ron Fournier of the AP:

At every turn, political leaders failed Katrina’s victims. They didn’t strengthen the levees. They ceded the streets to marauding looters. They left dead bodies to rot or bloat. Thousands suffered or died for lack of water, food and hope. Who’s at fault?

There’s plenty of blame to go around – the White House, Congress, federal agencies, local governments, police and even residents of the Gulf Coast who refused orders to evacuate. But all the finger-pointing misses the point: Politicians and the people they lead too often ignore danger signs until a crisis hits.

It wasn’t a secret that levees built to keep New Orleans from flooding could not withstand a major hurricane, but government leaders never found the money to fully shore up the network of earthen, steel and concrete barriers.

Both the Bush and Clinton administrations proposed budgets that low-balled the needs. Local politicians grabbed whatever money they could and declared victory. And the public didn’t exactly demand tax increases to pay for flood-control and hurricane-protection projects.

Just last year, the Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans. The White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress finally approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency’s request.

Yet the lawmakers and Bush agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-laden highway bill that included more than 6,000 pet projects for lawmakers. Congress spent money on dust control for Arkansas roads, a warehouse on the Erie Canal and a $231 million bridge to a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

And something we already knew:

“Bush, Congress, the mayor – each of them are symptoms of a bigger problem, that we don’t have accountability for disasters or challenges of this scale,” Lovin said. “That’s all the public wants in trying times – accountability.”

Thus, Americans are doing what people do when government lets them down – they’re turning to each other. Donations are pouring into charities. Internet sites are being used to find relatives. Residents of far-off states are opening their homes to victims.

And still, people are dropping dead in New Orleans, in part because the relief agencies were unprepared, and in part because the governments of New Orleans, Louisiana, and the United States continue to refuse to enforce the law. Snipers are shooting at helicopters and ambulances. Police can only stand by and watch.

This has nothing to do with Iraq, so, please, don’t even bore me with that nonsense. This does have to do with bureaucracy. The Department of Homeland Security put a lot of civil servants to work, but it hasn’t saved a life as far as I can tell.

(Note: FEMA is an agency under the Department of Homeland Security.)