The American Progress Report had another segment on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina today:
On Sept. 15, 2005, President Bush stood in New Orleans's Jackson Square and promised, "Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." Bush also said, "Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as President, am responsible for the problem, and for the solution. ... This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina." A few months later, "only 161 words out of 5,361 in [Bush's State of the Union address] were devoted to the sinking of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina." "Moreover, the budget that Bush submitted to Congress on Monday reflects an administration with a questionable committment to reconstructing the region and destined to repeat its mistakes."
NO AID FOR KATRINA VICTIMS: The President's budget "offered no new aid for Hurricane Katrina victims." The administration indicated not to expect anything above what was previously announced "for at least a year." Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) questioned the administration's committment to relief: "This is going to be a marathon, and not a sprint. And any suggestion that that's it for a couple of years would be disastrous to the recovery."
ARMY CORP CONSTRUCTION BUDGET SLASHED: The economic revitalization of New Orleans depends on the construction of strong levees upon which businesses and residents can rely. Yet the President's budget calls for "a 34 percent cut on the construction budget for the Army Corps of Engineers, which designs and builds storm protection projects." The budget would completely cut off funding "for dozens of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Louisiana." Overall, flood prevention is cut by $75 million (13 percent). Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said the funding cuts reflect "an administration that has still not learned from its dysfunctional response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the levee breaks that followed."
CRITICAL FUNDING FOR FIRST RESPONDERS CUT: The suffering created by last year's hurricane season underscored the need for a robust system of first responders to care for those caught in harm's way. Yet the President's budget cuts critical programs that support them. For example, the budget cuts an important program that provides federal assitance to firefighters by $244 million (45 percent). Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), who protested the cuts, calls the federal program "a modest, proven investment that gets critical equipment directly into the hands of those on the front lines of our efforts to maintain the safety of our local communities."
LESS SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS, HOUSING: The budget calls for substantial reductions in programs that could provide essential support for the victims of Katrina who need help rebuilding their lives. For example, Bush's budget "would cut 26% from a [housing] program aimed at the low-income elderly and known as Section 202, and half the funding for a [housing] program known as Section 811, which is for low-income people with disabilities." Many families are reluctant to return to the region because schools haven't reopened. Yet the President's budget would keep regular "Title 1 money for disadvantaged schools, the major financing device for Louisiana schools, flat at $12.7 billion."
EXISTING EFFORTS LEAVE NATION UNPREPARED: It's not as if existing efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast and prepare for future disasters are going well. Last week, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office found "the government still lacks sufficient plans and training programs to prepare for catastrophic disasters like the Aug. 29 storm that devastated much of the Gulf Coast area." The Department of Homeland Security attacked the messanger, saying the GAO displayed "a significant misunderstanding of core aspects of the Katrina response."