Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bush Has Some Responsibility For This Disaster

Bush, today, 8/30/05, doing what he does best: "hard" work.

As Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi struggle to survive, our "leader" found time to continue his vacation, play some golf, play some music and speak to prescreened audiences in support of the Iraq war and the dismemberment of medicaid. He reluctantly ended his vacation two days earlier than planned; don't worry, he still has the record for the most vacation taken by a sitting president ever: 346 days over eight years.

But wait - how can he be blamed for the results of the hurricane if he is on vacation?

Because he stole the money that would have gone to rebuild the subsiding levees for his little adventure in Iraq. Specifically money to fix one of the levees that gave out last night. I am going to quote large parts of an incredible post from Attytood here because it is so important:
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.
-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to this Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness:

The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.

The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.

"The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling).

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.
There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach.

Donate to the Red Cross. Help your fellow Americans. Then, write a letter to your local newspaper and tell them that you resent what this stupid, vicious, angry little monkey in the White House has done to your country.

Here are some great sources for facts about how his irresponsibility is contributing to the suffering in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi:
Attytood: When the Levee Breaks
Daily Kos: Accountability for Lake New Orleans
AMERICAblog: Bush took New Orleans disaster funds and used them for the Iraq war and for his tax cuts
Editor and Publisher: Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues