The Ostroy Report

The Ostroy Report is a fresh, aggressive voice for Democrats and a watchdog of the GOP/Tea Party. We support President Obama and the Democratic agenda and seek to preserve the Senate majority while taking back the House. But we're also not afraid to criticize the left when necessary.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush's Role in the New Orleans Disaster


Days after Hurricane Katrina hit shore and became the worst natural disaster in American history, questions are being raised about how much of the death and destruction was avoidable and, more important, what effect did Bush Administration policy and budget cuts have in contributing to this Southern nightmare. The answer is, plenty. New Orleans has always been vulnerable to potentially devastating flooding and damage from a direct hurricane hit. Since the 1960's, the federal government has worked with local governments to bolster precautionary measures as well as relief efforts. In 1995, after a huge rainstorm that killed several people, Congress enacted the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA, and appointed the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the task of fixing the area's hurricane protection levees and to build pumping stations. We now know that it was the breach of three levees, caused by the overflowing Lake Ponchartrain, that has caused the most death and destruction this week, one day after the hurricane itself appeared to spare the city the worst of the storm's impact. What's infuriating is that the levee repair projects were adequately funded until recently, when President Bush wrote out of his 2004 budget most of the spending which the Corps had been receiving. Further, Bush ignored desperate pleas by Corps officials for the additional funding it said was urgently needed to properly protect the city from the kind of horrific chaos that Katrina has now brought. And the reason for the cuts? The cost of the war--the unjustified, unnecessary, 1000% elective, makes-me-mad-as-hell war--in Iraq was spiraling out of control, and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans took much needed revenue out of the Fed's coffers. Simply, Bush needed the dough to feed his neo-con macho war fantasy, as well as fatten the already swollen wallets of his rich Republican constituents. So, screw the poor and screw the vulnerable down in N'Orleans. The levees project was not completed, and they were never fully raised to levels that could adequately protect the city from a ruthless beast like Katrina. And from his 2005 budget, Bush cut all funding for the repair project as well as funding for much-needed research studies to determine better methods for safeguarding the area and minimizing future destruction from major hurricanes. It is both unfortunate and inescapable that Hurricane Katrina is a red-state disaster, and that those it has devastatingly affected, at this point, have no idea just how significantly, and callously, Bush has let them down. Perhaps the horror caused by Katrina in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi will be the tipping point. As the months pass and the region regains some semblance of normalcy, and as more news about the SELA/Corps projects is unearthed, the harsh realization for many will be that the man they voted for, the man they trusted with their best interests and their lives and those of their families, betrayed them. As he has been betraying them all along. It's just that the other betrayals have been subtle and easily whitewashed. Sadly, they weren't so lucky with Katrina. And I expect many of them, whose increasing disenchantment with Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress is reflected in the dismal 38% approval rate, will take out their highly justified anger and frustration inside the '06 mid-term elections voting booth. Andy

24 Comments:

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  • At 11:23 PM, Blogger All_I_Can_Stands said…

    Cut is a funny word when it comes to budgets. It rarely happens. Do you by any chance mean that the rate of growth was lowered from what it has been in recent years. I find it interesting that you just make the claim with no link or reference. My guess is that you read it on one of those kooky websites you have listed whose vocabulary is limited to two words: blame Bush.

     
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  • At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One thing I haven't seen mentioned is the National Guard. On TV I saw members of the National Guard driving in from elsewhere. How many were there locally?

    Bush has sent so many members of the National Guard to Iraq for long stints. I assume there are significantly less National Guard now than before. Has there been adequate planning as to how many members of the guard are needed to handle natural disasters like this?

    This is of course a very extreme example, but there has never been a year in our history without multiple hurricanes, tornados, floods, fires, earthquakes, etc. I do remember reading about a governor trying to stop the reduction of the national guard force in his state for this very reason.

    I'm not saying I know the answer to this. Andy? Anyone?

     
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  • At 12:41 AM, Blogger The Ostroy Report said…

    For anyone who doubts the impact of Bush's budget cuts on the Southeast Louisiana hurricane protection levee projects, just do some Google research. The 17th Street levee, the one that broke and caused the most damaged, was a work in progress that stopped because Bush cut off funding. Stick your head in the sand if you wish, but facts are facts.

    As for the Nationla Guard, about 45% of Louisiana's regimen is over in Iraq. Bush has had to pull Guardsmen from all over the country, piecemeal, to help, and it's still woefully inadequate. See, this is the reslt of wasting so much time, money and troops in a totally unjust, unnecessary war.

    Lastly, glad those of you who've found me like the Blog. Feel free to email me at TheOstroyReport@aol.com and I can add you to my distribution and reader list.
    Andy

     
  • At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Joanne said…

    I used to live in New Orleans; it's my favorite city, and I'm devestated.

    IF there had been sandbags available--a very large if--would it have been possible to mobilize every able-bodied person in the city to shore up the levees? Nowadays, it's hard to even get our heads around the idea of the population helping itself. Perhaps most people would have bridled at the idea of working for free. But now they've lost their homes and their city.

     
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  • At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    And I expect many of them, ... will take out their highly justified anger and frustration inside the '06 mid-term elections voting booth.

    Several scientific analyses of the 2004 presidential election have been published. Written by Ph.d statistical scientists they all say the same thing: the '04 election was stolen by Bush. There has been no rebuttal to any of them.

    So, if you had scientific proof that Bush steals elections, (and we have) would you believe it then? Why think that the next election will be any less fixed than the last three?

     
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  • At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To All I Can Stands,
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2005/08/31/disaster_preparation/index_np.html

    Eat a little spinach and swallow this. I don't "Blame Bush" I blame idiots like you that voted for him and continue to regurgitate right-wing rhetoric.

     
  • At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To very loosely paraphrase H.L. Mencken, "there will come a day when the character of the occupant of the White House accurately reflects that of the common folk, and we will have a downright moron for a president."
    It's clear that day has come.

     
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  • At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    With rare exception, when you vote for a conservative or a republican, you are voting to kill and harm Americans. Whether it's Iraq, health care, fiscal policies, environmental regulations, access to courts, or
    1) Ignoring global warming which made Katrina more catastrophic
    2) deciminating levee funding for Louisiana
    3) Cutting the Army Corps of Engineers
    4) golfing the day after Katrina struck
    5) Having 3 full days b4 Katrina was scheduled to hit land and implementing NO adequate plans, (I could add a few more)

    Conservatives and Republicans kill people. Simple as that.

     
  • At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Andy:

    You're linked from buzzflash.com, thus the additional traffic.

    All I Can Stand:

    Please see:
    http://www.pnionline.com/dnblog/attytood/archives/002331.html

    "The 2004 hurricane season, as you probably recall, was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane- and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs. According to New Orleans CityBusiness this June 5:

    "The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.

    "'We'll do some design work. We'll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem,' Naomi said."

    See also:
    http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/8/30/212451/290

    "The Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2005 budget includes only $3.9 million for the east bank hurricane project. Congress likely will increase that amount, although last year it bumped up the administration's $3 million proposal only to $5.5 million.

    "'I needed $11 million this year, and I got $5.5 million,' Naomi said. 'I need $22.5 million next year to do everything that needs doing, and the first $4.5 million of that will go to pay four contractors who couldn't get paid this year.'"

     
  • At 3:26 PM, Anonymous seena1313 said…

    It is horrifying it took bush 4 days to respond!

    They just decided today to send an aircraft carrier & hospital ships to the area. Notwithstanding the hospital ships will not leave for several days. Meanwhile how long will it take for the aircraft carrier to even reach the area! There is so much that could have been done, should have been done, but wasn't! But at least bush is on spot now, hopefully!

    Yet there are still Questions:

    Why weren't ships sent immediately; where are the National Guard (oops they are fighting in Iraq); why weren't buses sent to the area to evacuate the residents before the hurricane hit; why weren't enough troops, police, law enforcement sent to prevent the looting; why did bush send Canadian disaster teams back to Canada?

    Evidently as many as 20,000 people living in the superdome are without electricity nor functioning toilets. Amidst squalour and filth many complained of standing in line for hours for food only to discover there wasn't any left. Other incidences including a couple of rapes, a murder and a suicide -- a man jumped to his death -- have taken place. One survivor, rescued by boat, said they had to push hundreds of floating dead bodies out of the way .....

    Early in 2001 bush received his PDB with FEMA's report that identified 3 potential catastrophes likely to hit the US: 1) a terrorist attack on NY 2) an earth quake in San Francisco and 3) a hurricane in New Orleans.

    A lot of this could have been avoided if they had not cut funding to raise the levees, but even just raising the levees may have not prevented the flooding nonetheless it surely it would have alleviated at least in part some of the damage.

    Bottom line: while the bush administration ignored basic domestic federal programmes by diverting money to HLS, Iraq war & major tax cuts citizens now have a clear and vivid picture of the consequences from the reduction in basic domestic safety programmes.

    Perhaps now our legislators will grasp the magnitude of importance for pre-planning and taking preventive measures. Shelling out money before disasters happen costs less in the long run and more importantly saves lives.

    Will they learn the lesson this time or will we have a repeat ... if so how many more times will the public accept more of the same?!

     
  • At 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To All I Can Stands:

    The blood of the people of New Orleans is on George Bush's hands.

    Here's another link for you, a story by Knight Ridder:

    http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/12528233.htm

    "Budget cuts haven't made disaster preparedness any easier.

    "Last year, FEMA spent $250,000 to conduct an eight-day hurricane drill for a mock killer storm hitting New Orleans. Some 250 emergency officials attended. Many of the scenarios now playing out, including a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, were discussed in that drill for a fictional storm named Pam.

    "This year, the group was to design a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of stranded citizens.

    "Funding for that planning was cut, said Tolbert, the former FEMA disaster response director.

    "'A lot of good was done, but it just wasn't finished,' said Tolbert, who was the disaster chief for the state of North Carolina. 'I don't know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.'

    "FEMA wasn't alone in cutting hurricane spending in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

    "Federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana has been chopped from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005, according to budget documents. Federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in the Army Corps of Engineers' budget dropped from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7 million this year. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu requested $27 million this year.

    "Both the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper and a local business magazine reported that the effects of the budget cuts at the Army Corps of Engineers were severe.

    "In 2004, the Corps essentially stopped major work on the now-breached levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years, the Times-Picayune reported.

    "'It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay,' Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri told the newspaper. 'Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.'"

     
  • At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Khentiamentiu said…

    It's not enough for the rabid right to redefine words and phrases such as "classified," "ethical," "disclosed," "fired," and, my current favorite, "take out." No, now they have to redefine the word "cut." Well, Popeye, when the man said "cut," he meant "cut." Here's a link to the same information from the Chicago Tribue. I'd get the same from the Wall Street Journal for you, but I can't stand the thought of paying a subscription fee to a right-wing journal. And of course, you'll probably never see this at all on Fox Spews.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-050831corps-story,1,2364215.story?coll=chi-news-hed

    All_I_Can_Stands said…

    Cut is a funny word when it comes to budgets. It rarely happens. Do you by any chance mean that the rate of growth was lowered from what it has been in recent years. I find it interesting that you just make the claim with no link or reference. My guess is that you read it on one of those kooky websites you have listed whose vocabulary is limited to two words: blame Bush.

     
  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger All_I_Can_Stands said…

    Your fantasy comment has one big problem:

    You said "And I expect many of them, whose increasing disenchantment with Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress is reflected in the dismal 38% approval rate, will take out their highly justified anger and frustration inside the '06 mid-term elections voting booth"

    Even if people think they have something to vote against, they need something to vote FOR. What in the world do Dems have to offer? The stance "I don't have any solutions, I just know how to criticize" won't fly.

     

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