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  1. #1
    Senior Member MopheadBlue's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005

    New Orleans: the ultimate catastrophe of government cuts

    New Orleans: the ultimate catastrophe of government cuts
    Sept. 10, 2005

    Money for the repair and strengthening of
    flood levees has been repeatedly diverted by
    the Bush administration to the war in Iraq

    The great tragedy unfolding in New Orleans will inevitably focus on how it happened, and the inescapable verdict will fall heavily on the shoulders of the Bush administration in Washington, which has repeatedly diverted money from levee projects to help pay for war in Iraq.

    Already the following telling quotation published by the New Orleans Times-Picayune is being circulated around the globe on the internet. (In fact, a blogger named William Bunch in Philadelphia has compiled one of the first first major reports on the subject.)

    Walter Maestri, the emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, was quoted on June 8, 2004, by the Times-Picayune as saying the following:

    "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. 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."

    Everyone knew the danger

    It has been known for decades that New Orleans, a seaport below sea level, was vulnerable to the great catastrophe that has occurred this week.

    Federal, state and local officials have been working since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief projects, one of the most significant being the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). The impetus for SELA was a May 1995 rainstorm that caused major flooding and took six lives.

    Since that time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, assigned to carry out SELA, has spent $430 million shoring up levees, which by their very nature sag, settle and erode constantly over time. It is a vital never-ending process upon which countless lives depend.

    "But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained (unfinished), even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside," reports Bunch, a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and former political writer. (Prior to that he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting with Newsday in New York.)

    "After 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle," Bunch writes.

    "The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars."

    Obsessed with Iraq

    In early 2004, the Bush administration in Washington, obsessed with Iraq and ever more diverted by the worsening conflict, announced a 20% cut in what the Army Corps said it needed for Lake Pontchartrain.

    Meanwhile, the $750-million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project, another Army Corps initiative to shore up levees and reinforce pumping stations, was also hit by federal cuts. It received only $3.9 million (of $20 million sought) in the Bush 2005 federal budget.

    Still more budget cuts followed.

    "The 2004 hurricane season ... 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," Bunch reports.

    "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."

    Rolling the dice

    And still more cuts were on the books for 2006.

    "Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool's errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefited the rich," Bunch writes.

    "And now Bush has lost that gamble, big time. We hope that Congress will investigate what went wrong here," he adds.

    "The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet - after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf - there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisiana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?"

    Canadian footnote:

    There are parallels in Canada to the Bush administration's headstrong approach to governing. Basically, it is an ideology that emphasizes wanton spending on its own agenda, huge tax cuts aimed mainly at the wealthy and dire cuts to vital services. The Harris administration in Ontario, the Campbell administration in British Columbia and the Williams government in Newfoundland are all prime examples of this reckless style of governing. Fortunately, no comparable tragedies have resulted in Canada, although many deaths in our national health care system have been linked directly to budget cuts. NUPGE

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    1) New Orleans and the state have to bear some of the responsibility because they allowed more building and building and building, which in turn increased the population. They all live in a bowl, so it can only safely hold so many. obviously the higher land is worth more and that's where many of the expensive homes were. Somebody--and eventually we'll find out who...kept packing more and more people into that underwater fishbowl.

    It would have been cheaper a long time ago to stop all new construction untill the levees were up-to-date.

    2) As the population expanded, obviously they didn't expand the roads to keep up with the population. That in turn caused evacuation problems. I'm just guessing on this because many new communities have this problem.

    3) All communities were to have emergency plans in place after 9/11. Although they would have been planning for terrorists, those plans would have worked for katrina too.

    In New Orleans' defense though, MOST lives were saved through the effort of New Orleans alone. To evacuate a city that SIZE, that FAST, with that many POOR people, and to have lost so few---that's right SO FEW out of half a million--is absolutley amazing. I don't think anyone thought it could be done. I've never heard of it being done. Florida twice, yes, but the circumstances are different (better roads, more cars, more recent experience).

    If you add up all the crime and deaths and average it out over two weeks, I think you'll find the crime and death RATE to actually be much lower than it looks. If that few people died, and those few crimes committed in the Superdome over that period of time, with that many people squashed into that little area in those conditions (no running water, no toilets, bad air, a LOT OF PEOPLE) it's mind-boggling. I never thought it could be done.

    Well, now we know it CAN be done. Gone on ya, New Orleans.

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