Wed Aug 31st, 2005 at 1330 PDT
As we wait for the president's Rose Garden statement, I feel it necessary to demand that we right now begin criticizing this president for his policy decisions, which have exacerbated the tragedy, his dereliction of duty as president, his overall callousness and his inert response. The questions must be asked. So I've began identifying articles that substantiate the Bush administration's culpability to this catastrophic event.
QUESTION: What did he know, and when did he know it?
Via ThinkProgess, in early 2001 this article appeared in the Houston Chronicle:
[In early 2001] the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country. The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.
QUESTION: Did the president do all he could do to prevent the disaster?
The answer is not only no, but he actually drastically cut the budget:
Until recently, efforts to squeeze coastal protection money out of Washington have met with resistance. The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. Ultimately a deal was struck to steer $540 million to the state over four years. The total coast of repair work is estimated to be $14 billion.
In its budget, the Bush administration had also proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need.
In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.
It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.
I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.
QUESTION: What was the concrete impact of these cuts?
According to a July 8, 2004 article (via Josh Marshall), the project basically stopped:
For the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area's east bank hurricane levees, a complex network of concrete walls, metal gates and giant earthen berms that won't be finished for at least another decade.
"I needed $11 million this year, and I got $5.5 million," Naomi said. "I need $22.5 million next year to do everything that needs doing, and the first $4.5 million of that will go to pay four contractors who couldn't get paid this year."
QUESTION: Why were there such drastic cuts?
The Army Corp of Engineers comes out and says it:
The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
QUESTION: How has the fact that 40% of the Louisiana Guard is deployed overseas impacted the response to the flooding?
The major levee at the 17th street canal didn't get patched:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is "very upset" that an attempt to fix the breach in the levee at the 17th Street canal has failed, and he said the challenges that the city is facing have "escalated to another level."
Nagin said the sandbagging was scheduled for midday, but the Blackhawk helicopters needed to help did not show up. He said the sandbags were ready and all the helicopter had to do was "show up."
He said he was told that the helicopters may have been diverted to rescue about 1,000 people in a church.
QUESTION: How did the president respond to the catastrophe?
He maintained his vacation schedule by:
-Traveling thousands of miles away from the disaster area to have a good old time during a staged Medicare event: