Bush Was Absolutely Right To Take Some Responsibility For The Katrina Disaster Response
President Bush was absolutely right to take some responsibility for the Katrina disaster response. It was partially the "conservative" antibig government philosophy of this administration as well as plenty of blame that can be laid at the feet of Congress and other past presidential administrations that helped to create and worsen the entire disaster.
After the Herbert Hoover great depression, President Roosevelt came into office with plans to put the huge number of unemployed workers back to work with the National Recovery Act. One program, the WPA brought work to huge armies of unemployed workers and built not only much of the old highway system in America, but the original levee work in New Orleans. However, this system was only intended to withstand a category 3 type hurricane, and not the category 5 like the hurricane Katrina destruction brought to New Orleans.
Conservative blogger, Michele Malkin also identified that President Johnson signed into law a bill passed by Congress that was in the process of building a hurricane barrier. But an environmental lawsuit stalled the project by 1977. And in the middle of the 1980's the Army Corps of Engineers project was completely halted as a result of the legal problems created by the environmental lawsuit. However this was only one of many bumps in the road to strengthen the levee system in New Orleans.
There were many local politicians in New Orleans who were often conservative republicans who were opposed the "contraints" on development imposed by land use planning laws, and sought to promote as much land development as possible. This proland developer philosophy took away much of the land buffer that helped to protect New Orleans from flooding in the event of a storm. And some European states, such as the Netherlands even have some manmade structures to help to protect their levee and dam system from storm damage.
As part of the "conservative" antibig government philosophy of the Bush Administration, FEMA sought to outsourch much of it's disaster planning to private local firms. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana firm, Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) was contracted to plan most disaster response for New Orleans back in 2004 by the Bush Administration's FEMA bureau.
But in 2002, Mike Parker, head of the Army Corps of Engineers displayed a rotted piece of metal from the Mississippi Lock system in the area to the Bush Administration's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels. Mike Parker wanted to repair and strengthen the regional levees and other water control systems in the region, not only due to rotting conditions, but to withstand any storm damage. But it was the Bush Administration that stopped a $430 million dollar repair plan by the Army Corps of Engineers, and Mike Parker subsequently quit as head of this major construction organization.
Congress for years had the opportunity to appropriate funds to strengthen or repair the regional levee systems in this region. However, just this year a highway bill with at least $25 million in pork spending for automobile museums and other projects was voted by Congress, yet this pork spending was 10 times the amount required by to make vital repairs to the New Orleans levee system.
Now Mr. Bush hopes to offer some help after the damage done by Katrina with his speech, which of course is well intentioned. However some of the solutions involve the Republican cure-all for all ills, tax breaks to business. This is no guarantee that workers actually will be hired from the ranks of the unemployed. And other Bush solutions, for minorities or others to open businesss are not entirely a bad idea. But with the huge costs to open a successful business including rent often in excess of $1,000 a month and $25,000 to $100,000 or more in stock required to open a business with any merchandise at all, it is unlikely that many minority members or others will get involved in such a risky venture. If a business fails, which most small businesses certainly do, then a person could be in severe financial straits for many years. And with the Bush "bankruptcy reforms" recently signed into law, the debt of failed business can follow them for years and destroy the marriage of a family with financial stress and arguments. Opening a business is not a solution for all persons. In fact there is a old joke that goes: How do open a small business? You open a large business and wait. There is more truth than humor in this joke. And if the money to open a business is given as a grant, then it is a highly expensive and inefficient way to create jobs in New Orleans.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the Katrina disaster's impact on the New Orleans levee system. Since it's construction during the Roosevelt days in the 1930's, the levee system was just waiting for a storm stronger than a category 3 to flood and drown many in New Orleans. And the cumulative effective of the environmental lawsuit that eventually halted the Johnson-era repairs, as well the recent developments of the Bush Administration's own conservative antibig government philosophy to cut some spending that did not benefit private or big business also contributed to this fatal disaster. The Bush Administration does deserve to accept some responsibility for the disaster. They had a hand in it.