The left side of the blogosphere is almost insane with glee over the prospect of pinning the hurricane's disaster on President Bush. The animating principle appears to come from this
story, from a well-known-to-be-anti-Bush journalist.
There's something truly ghoulish about the eagerness of some
to politicize the tragedy as quickly as possible.
But since they're doing it, the facts should get out, along with all the jaundiced opinion from the left.
A place to start is with this
post from RedState. The writer apparently has been involved in working with the damage wreaked by hurricanes in Florida, and has some expertise.
Here are some facts:
(1) As noted in this
article, the levees were designed only to handle a Category 3 storm -- not a 4 (as Katrina was), much less a 5. (See the final sentence of the article, wherein the Army Corps of Engineer's chief engineer for the New Orleans district observes, “The system is designed for a Category 3 storm and we had a Category 5 storm.”)
(2) According to this
Popular Science magazine piece from 2004, it was only in 2004 that the Army Corps of Engineers even began to consider
constructing levees that could withstand the force of a Category 5 storm.
(3) The Bunch piece
that has started the whole "Bush's fault for underfunding" line of inquiry points out:
The federal government kicked in about $430 million between 1995 and 2005; $250 in spending remained to be done (presumably, just to protect the city from a Category 3). Dividing that $430 million over ten years (some years more, after 2003, less) comes out to about $43 million/year. So even if New Orleans had been receiving $50 million/year in federal help, the plans for the remaining upgrades would have only been 66% executed.
(4) The annual budget for the City of New Orleans is more than $540 million
. According to the Bunch piece, the city itself had only kicked in $50 million over 10 years for the levees -- which comes out to (that's right, math whizzes!) a whopping $5 million/year. Now, if the need for levee work was widely known to be as urgent as all of us are supposed to believe now, couldn't some of that half billion dollar budget gone into it? According to the RedState piece
, $45,000,000 could have been raised through a hotel bed tax and a property tax hike of less than $50 a year.
(5) And as for the state -- well, its budget apparently had enough pork
to throw at least a little cash toward the levees . . .
Please understand: No one here is blaming
either the Mayor of New Orleans or the Governor of Louisiana. Natural disasters are, indeed, natural diasters -- and they can happen to anyone, anywhere. (St. Louis, where I grew up, sits right on the New Madrid fault and
has parts in a flood plain and
is in tornado country. Today, I live by the San Andreas Fault).
The facts above aren't to demonstrate that the state or city was evil or remiss for not having done more. It's to demonstrate that it's unfair to blame any one entity (or person!) for what is a disaster of unprecedented and almost unfathomable scope.
In my view, to the extent that money was diverted to protect Americans against attacks from our enemies, that's a very defensible and excellent choice. It's hard ever to be completely prepared against natural phenomena so forceful as to be called "acts of God"; being secured -- as best we can -- against human evildoers is something that's more within our control, and President Bush would have been infinitely more at fault for neglecting to spend money in such an effort.