The Empire's New Clothes
Is Bush to Blame for New Orleans Flooding?
He did slash funding for levee projects. But the Army Corps of Engineers says Katrina was just too strong.I am inclined to believe the non-partisan FactCheck.org article which acknowledges that Mr. Bush did cut funding for levee projects in New Orleans. It also claims that had the project been fully funded, it would not have been completed until 2015 and it would only have been designed to withstand a category 3 hurricane. This bolsters the Army Corp of Engineers claim that Katrina, a category 4 hurricane, was simply more powerful than anticipated.
However, it is also true that from the point of view of emergency preparedness, we should have seen this coming. Paul Krugman notes in NYT (also cited by FactCheck.Org) that the 9/11 FEMA listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters in the U.S. to be “a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans.”
Hindsight is 20/20. But simply saying that this is an unprecedented catastrophe in order to lower the expectations of our response is “unacceptable.” But this probably isn't what Mr. Bush meant when he spoke to reporters before boarding a helicopter to travel to the affected areas in the Gulf. It doesn't explain why the disaster response, 5 days afterwards, is still dealing with lawlessness, rape, and gang violence, a lack of coordinated command and control on the ground, and a desparate exodus from a city originally 80% submerged in 20 feet of water. But it does explain Mr. Bush's apparent reversal from an eagerness to arrive on the scene in Mobile AL, to "not looking forward to the trip" to New Orleans.
Krugman claims that this is an administration that has done things on the cheap like waging war but not properly arming its troops, or erecting new governmental agencies and processes, but not following through on funding its projects. Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the U.S. has accepted offers of international aid and support. The world stands aghast at the ill preparedness of this first world nation which has come apart at the seams. In Krugman’s words, “So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.”