Before the Hurricane
In the Reagan Administration, there was a concerted effort to get FEMA out of the disaster business, shifting the responsibility to local and state government. If you do some research of a FEMA conference at University of Miami in mid-eighties, you will learn what the new mission was to be. In 2001, Bush wanted to pick up where Reagan left off. Joe Albaugh, a Bush friend and campaign manager, took over FEMA and said FEMA should scale back its activities and leave disasters primarily to state and local government. He said the agency was "n oversized entitlement program" and said states should reply on faith-based organizations ...like the Salvation Army." Later, when Bush hugged the two distraught women in Louisiana, all he could say was that the Salvation Army would attend to their needs.
In 2002, Michael Parker, a former Republican Congressman from Florida, was forced to resign as head of the Corps of Engineers. He had protested drastic funding cuts.
By 2003, plans were developed to take FEMA out of the disaster business. This outlook might explain why Governor Blanco had so many problems contacting the president and other ranking officials by telephone. The plan assumed disaster work would be carried out by private enterprise. Plerasant Mann, head of the union for PHEMA employees, noted that Our professional staff are being replaced by politically connected novices and contractors....A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone."
The new orientation included shutting down successful Project Impact, created under Clinton, which mitigated damage by moving and elevated "repetitive loss"dwellings most likely to be hit by storms. FEMA has estimated that mitigation saved two dollars for every one spent. Eventually it was replaced with a much smaller operation that could only be employed by wealthy communities able to provide matching funds.
Max Mayfield , head of the National Hurricane Center, briefed Secretary Chertoff on what would happen when th4e level four hurricane struck New Orleans. Mayfield warned that the levees could be overwhelmed. He also briefed President Bush via conference call. Later, Bush, Chertoff, and Brown all said they were surprised by what happened. Bush later told Diane Sawyer that he didn’t think anyone thought the levees would break. But Mayfield commented, "It was not like this was a surprise."
In 2004, FEMA disaster relief activity in Florida had more to do with reelecting George W. Bush than helping people. Republican areas in Miami-Dade were receiving windfall payments even though Hurricane Frances barely touched the area. The South Florida Sun Sentianal obtained Jeb Bush’s e-mail correspondence with FEMA, which showed the FEMA operation there was about indirectly purchasing votes.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26 and asked for federal help on August 27. Then George W. .Bush declared a state of emergency, but his document did not include New Orleans or some other coastal areas among those eligible for assistance.
The Bush administration reduced by 44% the amount that had been appropriated under Clinton to protect New Orleans. Among the items slashed was money for more pumping stations. The 2005 budget eliminated all money to improve the New Orleans hurricane plan. To be fair to Bush, there was some work funded to repair the levees, and the two breaks occurred where some repairs were made. In 2004, federal funds for the levee was cut to a trickle. The East Jefferson Levee Authority managed to find $2, 250,000 by raising property taxes to make some repairs. Lacking funds, the local Corps of Engineers imposed a hiring freeze.
Democratic Mayor Ray Negin "strongly encouraged" people to evacuate New Orleans but he did not do much to help those without transportation to leave. We will hear his defense when a Jount Congressional Committee looks into the disaster. Democrats on the committee have not been given the power to issue subpoenas, meaning they cannot pursue independent lines of inquiry.
Pedestrians tried to escape New Orleans via the Greater New Orleans Bridge but were turned back by the police from the integrated suburb of Gretna, Louisiana. A black councilman and policemen agreed there were no resources to share with the displacees.
To the East, St. Bernard Parish authorities blocked roads with cars and trucks.
After the Hurricane Struck
Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley offered to send 100 policemen, 36 firemen, 140 street and sanitation workers, 130 other people, plus various trucks and equipment to New Orleans. FEMA declined the offer and requested one tanker truck.
FEMA turned away 500 Florida airboaters who volunteered for rescue operations, and the Department of Homeland Security delayed the American Red Cross from entering.
Loudoun County, Virginia sent twenty deputies who were turned away. FEMA turned down offers of trains, generators, diesel fuel, other equipment and water from corporations, states and municipalities.
The Pentagon drowned in paperwork requirements offers of National Guard assistance from New Mexico and some other states. But miraculously some units from Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas got there by late Tuesday and Wisconsin somehow also managedc to get units there despite Pentagon restrictions.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police rescue team got to New Orleans before the U.S. Armed Forces arrived in significant numbers.
On the fourth day, large numbers of US troops began to appear. They were brought in from Iraq. 40 % of the Guard from the Gulf States were deployed in Iraq, and the necessary equipment and high-water vehicles had been sent there as well. Soon thereafter, US mercenaries were redeployed to New Orleans from Iraq to keep the peace.
Two days after all hell broke loose, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA director Michael Brown had no idea people were starving in the New Orleans Convention center.
While people on the Gulf Coast were suffering, FOX pundits were complaining that federal funds would have to be spent to help these people. Fred Barnes said these folks were bilking "the taxpayers with their cavalier choice of domiciles," and Charles Krauthamer said, "It’s a bit unseemly to talk about cutting off aid while the hurricane is still roaring through Mississippi. But let’s give it a try." Senator Rick Santorum thought people who refused to leave their homes should be fined in the future.
Bush indefinitely suspended the Davis-Bacon Act for the Gulf States, making it possible for federal contractors to pay laborers less than the prevailing wage. That wage for construction workers in Mississippi is $9.50 an hour.
"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.
Friday, September 23, 2005
- Sherman De Brosse
- Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!