For the next several days, I will re-post some of the things that I typed more than 10 years ago about Hurricane Katrina.
From the Center for American Progress:
1,833 lives lost. 270,000 homes destroyed. $55 billion in insured damage. Up to $1.4 billion in American tax dollars wasted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Today, the costs of Hurricane Katrina are still staggering. But even more staggering has been the slow pace of recovery on the Gulf Coast. No one was happy with the federal government’s initial response to the hurricane. Eighty percent of the American public think the federal government’s response could have been “much better,” and in September President Bush stated, “This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.”
But at Katrina’s one-year anniversary, it is clear that the nation is still waiting for the help Bush promised. Sunday, as part of the White House’s “public relations blitz,” Bush trumpeted in his weekly radio address that the federal government has “committed $110 billion to the recovery effort.”
But those billions of dollars have yet “to translate into billions in building.” Perhaps most disappointingly, Bush has forgotten about his promise to the nation to confront poverty “with bold action.“
Bush has clearly said that he doesn’t care. When his poll numbers tanked, he tried to pretend that he cared. Fortunately, America didn’t buy it.
We have made more progress in Iraq than we have in New Orleans and we haven’t done squat in Iraq.
Yesterday, while on Face the Nation, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma began whistling the same old tune. A new devastating tornado, must demand budget cuts before disaster relief. Senator Coburn has been a vigorous supporter of offsets for disaster relief funding. Senator Coburn is living that old Talking Heads tune which has the refrain – Same As It Ever Was. Senator Coburn is again whistling the same tune. I guess this is probably a good thing. At least he’s been consistent. He is treating his own state exactly the same as he treated other states when they needed disaster relief, although I’m not sure it’s a good thing when you are cold and callous.
We all pay taxes. The taxes need to go for something. One of the problems that I have with the current “cut taxes culture” is that we don’t think about what the things are that we really want to pay for. Do we really want to pay for the F-22 Raptor? If so, this a plane that cost tens of millions of dollars apiece. Do we want to pay to upgrade our bridges that seem to be collapsing at an alarming rate? Do we want to pay for disaster relief for the floods in San Antonio? The tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma? Hurricane Sandy that hit New Jersey and New York? If so, we need to quit cutting taxes and start paying for some things.
From the Huffington Post:
“We’ve created kind of a predicate, that you don’t have to be responsible for what goes on in your state,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” while discussing the success Oklahoma has had in using state and private funds after the tornadoes.
Coburn said he doesn’t oppose any federal money going toward the state, however.
“Big storms like [Hurricane] Sandy, or like this tornado — there’s certain things that we can’t do that we need the federal government to do,” he said.
Four years later, New Orleans is still a shadow of its former self. The Ninth Ward and other areas remain sparsely populated if at all. Many residents continue to live somewhere else as they were bused out of the area. I applaud Rachel Maddow for talking about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.
Former Secretary Tom Ridge does take some responsibility for the horrific government response and for this he is to be commended. On the other hand, he does fall back onto some of the clichés that we’ve heard over the last four years. No one could’ve anticipated… state and local officials bear some responsibility and blame… while it is clear that Louisiana is a dysfunctional state and New Orleans functions only slightly better, the leadership had to come from the federal government. They had to coordinate the response.
It is a lie to say that no one could have anticipated the breach of the levees. Two years earlier, more than 250 emergency preparedness officials for more than 50 federal, state and local agencies worked on a tabletop exercise called Hurricane Pam. Pam was specifically developed to flood New Orleans. It was a slow moving category three hurricane. The lack of leadership from a federal level can be clearly seen in this tabletop exercise. Two years after the conclusion of the exercise, the final report was incomplete because the federal government had not filled in key sections.
I do not want to belabor the point, but Hurricane Katrina should be remembered. We need to look back and learn from our mistakes. The lesson is not that we cannot trust the federal government. Instead, the lesson is that we have to put competent people in the federal government. We need to look forward and be prepared for the next disaster. We also need to look backward and help those on the Gulf Coast truly recover and heal a wound that is over four years old. What is the Obama administration doing about this? (I know that the president has a lot on his plate but this, like so many other things that are on his agenda, is critical.)