Carol Platt Liebau: How 'Bout Some Facts With That Opinion?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How 'Bout Some Facts With That Opinion?

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.


Blogger eLarson said...

I heard the term on the Laura Ingraham show this morning and I like it.

People on the Left who are

* rushing to blame Bush for a natural disaster; or

* imploring people to NOT contribute to Hurricane Katrina relief

are Political Looters of the worst sort.

Here's a short list:
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. - Clearly not a serious man. He's been dining out on the family surname his whole life.

Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) - He's the Dem's lead Congressional fundraiser.

It is truly tragic how low they have gotten.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except without Bush's multiple tax cuts for the wealthy, we would've had enough money for NOLA flood prevention and preparation, AND going after those non-existent WMD's in Iraq so vital to the War on Terror (or whatever he's calling it these days).

You should read exactly what those liberal bloggers are saying before you rush to judgement. Nobody is blaming Bush for the hurricane. They're blaming Bush for the complete and utter lack of preparation for the aftermath of this hurricane. What if the hurricane had been a dirty bomb instead? Some of the logistics would've been different, but the same basic needs for evacuation, refugee shelter, military presence to keep order, etc. would have been necessary. Whether a natural disaster or terrorist attack, these are the sort of things a leader should've anticipated, and he failed miserably.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Magorn said...

If you want facts try these:
Editor and Publisher found no less than 9 Time-Picayune articles talking about how BushCo funding cuts (largely for the war in Iraq ) were putting the city in danger

To Quote them:

When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. 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.

and to get specific

1) On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

2)Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

3)The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

4) There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:
"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

5)The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "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.... In its budget, the Bush administration 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."

6)And if you need specifics: One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

Now THOSE are facts, I'd like to see you have to courage to either acknowledge them or retract your previous statement that our ciriticisms are fact free.

I'd issue the same challenger to your previous commentator Elarson, to produce evidence that there is a *single* commentator of any repute, left right or center who is "Imploring people NOT to contribute to Hurricane Katrina Relief" . The notion is not merely contemptible but factually false as a quick tour of nearly any liberal blogor website will show.

For a specific example: all the tents and Supplies from Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey were sent to New Orleans yesterday. Can you say the same for the remnants of the "America Supports You" camp? I thought not.

How badly will our Chimp in chief have to screw up before your blind faith wavers even a little?

10:37 AM  
Blogger eLarson said...

Except without Bush's multiple tax cuts for the wealthy

News flash. Receipts to the treasury are up. Not down. Up.

I credit the tax cuts.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Ilya said...

For more on Liebau's reckless response to this natural disaster, go here.

4:14 PM  

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