Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Blame Game

I've been hearing and reading a lot of left-leaning commentators discussing the problems with funding for flooding prevention in New Orleans. The question being asked, legitimately in my view is, were the levee breaks a "natural disaster" or not?

From Salon:
So we wondered the other day whether the president had gotten another PDB when he was down in Crawford this August -- one that said, "Hurricane Katrina Determined to Strike in U.S."

Metaphorically speaking, it turns out, Bush did get such a PDB -- and he got it years ago. Experts have warned for years that New Orleans is particularly vulnerable to hurricane damage. And as the folks at the Center for American Progress note, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report in early 2001 that identified the three catastrophes most likely to hit the United States: a terrorist attack on New York, an earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane in NewOrleans.
I live in the S.F. Bay Area...and personally, I'm checking my earthquake insurance as I type.
They cut funding for flood and hurricane projects planned by the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers. According to one published report, the New Orleans district had $147 million to spend on such projects in 2001. In fiscal year 2005, which ends next month, the district will have had about $82 million, a drop of about 44 percent. As we reported earlier this week, the Bush administration proposed further cuts for the district for fiscal year 2006.
There are many other published reports of a shortage of National Guardsmen and rescue equipment due to the war. Kevin Drum finds evidence that FEMA is botching the job as does Josh Marshall, perhaps due to Bush appointees rolling back reforms implemented in the Clinton administration. I suspect more will come out about the problems of repairing the first failed levee, and much much more. And over at AmericaBlog, John Avarosis has been grilling Bush continually over his "I have a life too" attitude towards the disaster.

Is this all evidence that we can lay much of the New Orleans disaster on Bush's doorstep? I don't know. I suspect that both the left and right will fire up the spin machines to assign blame, politically. But just because it gets shrill doesn't mean it's all wrong. Political leadership at all levels have been denying the problem that is New Orleans for a long time. Billmon does a fantastic job outlining what an environmental disaster area New Orleans has been for some time, noting that it can't go on forever building levee's ever higher and pumping ever more.

I think there's plenty of blame to go around. And I think that Bush bears a pretty fair share. Too bad there's no (realistic) way for him to be held accountable. But perhaps, just maybe, if his poll approval numbers fall consistently to the 30's, we can expect some breakup in Republican party discipline and some real changes.


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