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Did It Have To Happen?

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Warning – If you don’t like scathing criticism of the President and his administration, too fricking bad.

What do you get when you ignore the truth?
What do you get when you ignore science?
What do you get when you are more interested in personal vendetta than public safety?
What do you get when tax breaks for the rich are more important than tax revenue for repair?

You get New Orleans.

Anyone who lives in the hurricane belt knows it is just a matter of time before you get hit. Last year it was our turn. Three times hurricanes passed over our heads, even though a hurricane hadn’t come close to Orlando in over three decades. The good luck ran out with a vengence. I knew people who just felt they were never going to be hit, so never bothered to prepare.

Apparently they work in the White House.

Everyone knew New Orleans was a sitting duck. Any major storm there was a disaster just begging to happen. FEMA declared that the risk of catastrophic disaster due to a hurricane was one of the 3 most likely scenarios in the U.S. That was in 2001. It was old news to anyone who knew anything about the city.

That’s why Congress passed the South East Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project back in 1995.

But guess what – since a certain tax-cut and spend president has come to office, the budget has been slashed. By about 44% going into 2005. The 2006 budget cuts was slated to be even more drastic. Was the budget cut because the work was finished?

No. Not by a long shot. There remained about $250 million worth of work remaining. Worse, much of the funding that was allocated was spent paying interest to contractors for previous work that we couldn’t pay for because of the budget cuts.

The cut in funding was political not pragmatic. It was cut to “reduce spending” and free up money for more corporate tax cuts. It went to the rich. It went to the war. It did not go where it was needed most. Even The Army Corp. of Engineers, the group responsible for the project, has not been shy explaining why the work had to slow. The War in Iraq was taking all the funding. Period.

Homeland Safety was discarded for “Homeland Security”.

Now we must add the rising death toll in the delta to the toll Bush’s Iraq fiasco has taken on this country.

Some would say that isn’t fair. You’re wrong. A hurricane isn’t fair. Being held accountable for bad decisions is. Yes, it is true that Bush is not responsible for Katrina and yes it is true that we don’t know how many people would have died if the project were fully funded. What we do know though was a conscious and unconscionable decision was made to slash the budget at a time when the risks of major devastation were rising to their highest levels in decades.

Mr. Bush was elected to lead, and look where he has taken us.

People are dead, a city is in ruins and a country is in mourning.

Ignore the science, ignore reality, igonore need and this is what you get.

ed/pub: NB

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About Cranky Liberal

  • Realist

    Those who rely on a bloated bureaucratic government to protect them are fools.

    We see our “leaders” on TV telling us now bad things are in NO — the same news that we heard on TV days ago.

    Of course, we also hear what is GOING to be done.

    Things that should have been done long ago,

  • You left out:

    “What do you get when you build an entire city 20 feet below sea level in a hurricane zone.”

    That’s the real question.

    Dave

  • Dave, does that mean we just leave them dead in the water? (No pun intended) Is that a good enough reason to cut funding to repair what could leave millions facing death so some assclown can go get his revenge on hmm hmm WMD carrying hmm hmm terrorist hmm hmm nation who didn’t pose a threat to America?

  • Jeliel, there’s no logical connection between the Iraq war and what’s going on right now in Louisiana. One didn’t cause the other – that’s extremely fuzzy thinking.

    Even if every bit of funding had been provided to the levee improvements it would not have stopped this from happening. Even the final plan for the levees was still rated for no more than a category 3 hurricane. The problem is not the levees, it’s where New Orleans was built.

    Dave

  • The lack of funding wiped out plans made back a few years ago for the study of how to prevent a Category 5 hurricane, which would have led to possible solutions and certainly better emergency planning.

    And according to the engineers and administrators in the Chicago Tribune article, the levees would have been built higher, which could have conceivably saved hundreds of lives and millions in property.

    Yes, the fundamental problem is New Orleans and its geography (and also the erosion of wetlands due to oil drilling and pollution), but there’s much, much more that could have been done in advance had we taken the numerous critical warnings by scientists the last few years seriously.

    And there’s CERTAINLY more that could have been done in the last three days to save lives that have already been lost and will no doubt continue to be lost due to sickness and starvation.

    That is all.

  • Babs, you can’t ‘prevent’ a cat 5 hurricane.

    And while the levees could have been built higher, there was no plan to do so and apparently no consciousness of such a need – that’s all in hindsight.

    Dave

  • Dave, there WAS a plan to build higher levees had there been the funding approval. Read the damn article before responding without knowing the logistics.

    You’re way too eager to put this behind us when there’s more we could have done.

    And there was a proposed study on how to protect New Orleans against a Category 5 hurricane that was shelved for lack of funding, not to mention the budget cuts that meant that the LCA project to manage and clean up the Louisiana Gulf Coast wetlands (which might have made some difference) was shelved years ago as well. A study on the impact of a Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans would have also led to better contingency plans for evacuation and relief response as well, even if you don’t believe we could have done much about levees, water pumps, and flooding.

    We all know it was a big, bad storm and that loss of life and property was inevitable. The degree of catastrophe and failure was not, however, inevitable. Far from it.

    No offense, I somehow think you’re viewing this as some abstract political or technical debate without much regard for the value of the lives (even if it was only a couple hundred) that could have been saved.

    That is all.

  • >>Dave, there WAS a plan to build higher levees had there been the funding approval. Read the damn article before responding without knowing the logistics.< < You must be reading a different article, because the one referenced above says not one word about raising levees higher than the level necessary for cat 3 or lower hurricanes. The additional federal funding was for other projects and additional unexpected repairs, and to maintain levees at their established levels. In addition, the Senate DID approve another $36 million in funding in 2005, which is completely ignored in the article. >>You’re way too eager to put this behind us when there’s more we could have done.< < No, I'm eager to see the truth being recognized rather than distortions and misrepresentations. By all means let's fix the problem in the future, but let's not try to blame people based on lies. >>And there was a proposed study on how to protect New Orleans against a Category 5 hurricane that was shelved for lack of funding,< < A study initiated this year would not have prevented this disaster. I imagine that now they'll have no problem getting it funded, though. >> not to mention the budget cuts that meant that the LCA project to manage and clean up the Louisiana Gulf Coast wetlands (which might have made some difference) was shelved years ago as well.< < Again, incorrect. Wetlands reclamation received substantial funding in recent budgets. Are you not familiar with Breaux Act – it’s the single largest appropriation ever made for Wetlands restoration.

    >>No offense, I somehow think you’re viewing this as some abstract political or technical debate without much regard for the value of the lives (even if it was only a couple hundred) that could have been saved.<< I just don't think that lives are saved by distorting the record and unfounded scapegoating. Obviously everyone involved could have done a better job, and you can bet they will in the future. But trying to turn this into a partisan witch hunt when there's plenty of blame to go around isn't helping anyone. Dave

  • Beth

    Katrina exposes lacking domestic policies that increased poverty & ambitious foreign policies that depleted our resources.

  • Dave, the Category 5 hurricane study was proposed in 2003, perhaps even before then.

    Here’s the National Geographic magazine in April 2004 on the LCA wetlands project that the Bush administration didn’t want to fund (granted, it was an expensive idea). The $2 billion vaguely promised below was to general conservation efforts over ten years and didn’t make it possible to have a program protecting the Louisiana wetlands:

    “Such high stakes compelled a host of unlikely bedfellows—scientists, environmental groups, business leaders, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—to forge a radical plan to protect what’s left. Drafted by the Corps a year ago, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) project was initially estimated to cost up to 14 billion dollars over 30 years, almost twice as much as current efforts to save the Everglades. But the Bush Administration balked at the price tag, supporting instead a plan to spend up to two billion dollars over the next ten years to fund the most promising projects. Either way, Congress must authorize the money before work can begin.”

    That is all.

  • Apparently, the Breaux Act (which allows for funding but doesn’t guarantee it) hasn’t been nearly enough to protect the health of the Louisiana wetlands. More drastic conservations projects were, and probably still are, needed, not just because of hurricanes but for the potential loss in biodiversity.

    That is all.

  • Find me a story documenting the “additional $36 million” figure.

    The stories I’ve read indicate that Bush lowballed what was asked of him and that Congress ended up giving slightly more than he was willing to part with.

    That is all.

  • Yes, but the point is that while some funding may have been cut for the levee project, the Breaux act got more funding than any other Wetlands restoration has ever gotten. And in fact, decent wetlands would probably do a lot more to help in a situation like this than inherently limited systems like levees which simply cannot divert enough water to do the job no matter how much you restore them and short them up. Levees just suck.

    Dave

  • It was a completed levee in full repair that failed, according to the Corps of Engineers as quoted in the Chicago Tribune. So completion of the other parts of the system wouldn’t have stopped anything. The problem was the system was inadequate, not that it was uncompleted.

    Now, let’s assume that the Cat-5 study, which was authorized back in 1998, had been completed the year after its authorization. (Note the authorization was under the Clinton Administration and when we were running a budget surplus; therefore, the cause of the delay couldn’t be Bush or his tax cut).

    Let’s further assume that Al Gore took office in 2001, that the dotcom bubble never burst (thus keeping tax revenues way up), and Gore decided to spend the hundreds of billions necessary to Cat-5 upgrade the levees.

    In that case, given the speed seen in the building of Louisiana’s original levee system, Louisiana would have been prepared for Katrina � in 2040 or so. Given the time it takes to plan construction properly, it’s unlikely work would have even been started by the time Katrina hit.

  • I’m with you, Cranky Liberal. Right on. We’re all pretty well out of our depth discussing technical aspects of levy construction but I’d bet that most people, if they could go back in time would want to do a hell of a lot more and that budget cuts did prevent that from happening.

    I guess maybe New Orleans, which grew up over hundreds of years, was not so far underwater to begin but the shifting mass of a river mouth made that happen after many precious and worthwhile things had been built, like homes and historical buildings. That’s just a guess but I think I heard that it was not below sea level to begin with. I’ve said on another thread that we should have a no building zone around bodies of water to allow them to flood and shift but hundreds of years ago, people had no running water, no plumbing and they also used bodies of water for transportation, irrigation, and transporting goods. They had no mechanized transport. Maybe that caused them to build close to the river. We know better now but we still build too close to the water and where I live rich people build illegal sea walls around their beach property which cause erosion further down the beach.