One of the most core principles of Republican philosophy is to get rid of big government, and worse, to disparage all sorts of government. But emergency planning is a government job and function. FEMA is a government organization. Stockpiling of emergency resources is the responsibility of government.
The way Republicans not very subtly attempt to dismantle government and the agencies of government is to cut taxes and starve it. Republican philosopher Grover Norquist said he wanted to starve government so it was small enough to drown in a bathtub. Drown was a sadly ironic word. The fact is, the Republicans have, with majorities in the house and senate and with Bush in the Whitehouse, been very successful at cutting taxes and starving government. They 've cut back on program after program, including FEMA.
Another corporation-friendly Republican policy is privatization --taking government programs and outsourcing them to private industry. Early in Bush 's first term, FEMA was designated as an agency that would be privatized.
In These Times reports, "In June 2004, FEMA privatized its hurricane disaster plan for New Orleans, contracting the work to the Baton Rouge, La., firm Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) whose motto is "Managing Risk in a Complex World. "
One blog reports that after Katrina hit, IEM removed the press release announcing their contract from their website. Privatization often means giving the job to the lowest bidder, not the best provider of services.
the Dallas Morning News reported,
In a post-Sept. 11 reorganization, FEMA joined 21 other agencies in a new Homeland Security Department, stripped of the Cabinet rank that had allowed it to report directly to the president. And, in a further department shuffle in July, FEMA lost its historic mission of working with state and local governments on preparedness plans before disaster strikes.
"It was a very powerful organization, with very, very seasoned people - and then 9/11 came," said Bob Freitag, who spent 25 years at FEMA, rising to federal coordinating officer.
Freitag, who now teaches at the University of Washington, and other emergency management officials contend that with terrorism prevention identified as the top Homeland Security mission, natural disaster preparedness slipped in attention and resources.
Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt urged Congress last year to restore the agency's independence, saying he was "extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and to respond to disasters has been sharply eroded."
Homeland Security "has taken away people, has taken away money, has taken away power and authority," Freitag said.
The agency, which doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in preparedness grants to state and local responders, has lost that function to Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness.
The Bush administration also canceled other FEMA programs, including a Clinton administration-era disaster mitigation effort known as Project Impact.
GovExec.com is government's business news daily and the premier Web site for federal managers and executives. Subscribers are high-ranking civilian and military officials who are responsible for defending the nation and carrying out the many laws that define the government's role in our economy and society. In an article titled, Ex-Army Corps officials say budget cuts imperiled flood mitigation efforts
As levees burst and floods continued to spread across areas hit by Hurricane Katrina yesterday, a former chief of the Army Corps of Engineers disparaged senior White House officials for "not understanding" that key elements of the region's infrastructure needed repair and rebuilding.
Mike Parker, the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers, was forced to resign in 2002 over budget disagreements with the White House. He clashed with Mitch Daniels, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, which sets the administration's annual budget goals.
"One time I took two pieces of steel into Mitch Daniels' office," Parker recalled. "They were exactly the same pieces of steel, except one had been under water in a Mississippi lock for 30 years, and the other was new. The first piece was completely corroded and falling apart because of a lack of funding. I said, 'Mitch, it doesn't matter if a terrorist blows the lock up or if it falls down because it disintegrates -- either way it's the same effect, and if we let it fall down, we have only ourselves to blame.' It made no impact on him whatsoever."
Republicans are pro-business. Another cause of the disaster in New Orleans was excessive development of land that had been acting as a protective barrier to the storm surges and flooding. Land development weakened this natural protection.
Republicans argue that supporting business leads to jobs. Sadly, now, there are no businesses in New Orleans. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed people. Now, not only your gasoline prices will go up, but also all the things you buy that it takes trucks to deliver.
The Republicans backed Bush wholeheartedly on going into war. This took money and national guard resources that made it harder to both prepare and to react effectively and quickly. There are also far too many democrats who are still supporting keeping the troops in Iraq. They are misguided, feeling they have to stand behind the votes they cast supporting the war, even though they were lied to and told about threats that did not exist by Bush and his people.
What you can do: Vote republicans out of office and replace them with true independents, progressive democrats(not DLC centrists who are no different than Republicans) green candidates... Even if you like your congressman and senators, they have to go. The mindset in the Republican party is lockstep obedience to the leaders --Bush, Delay, Hastert, Frist --and even "independent " legislators are not independent enough. They toe the line too often on too many votes. The only way to rescue the USA is to clear out enough Republican congressmen and Senators so the Republicans are no longer the majority in the house and senate. At that point, Bush and Cheney can be impeached. With a democratic majority in the senate, a republican will no longer be in the Whitehouse.
We must reverse the process of privatization and destruction of government and rebuild the resources of FEMA and countless other Republican-gutted agencies that serve the public welfare. We must immediately fire the policital appointee flunky incompetents that Bush put into office. That 's the way we start healing the disease that is afflicting America, which the disaster in New Orleans is just a symptom of.
Bottom line --it 's not enough to blame Bush. He was inspired, directed, enabled and empowered by Republican philosophy and Republican legislators.
Write to your local paper and tell them the Republicans helped kill the victims of the New Orleans Levee Flood and it is time for them to go. Click here to tell them that it is essential that we talk NOW about the politics and policies that caused the unnecessary deaths and suffering.