Friday, September 02, 2005

Now that New Orleans is nearly completely underwater and thousands of people have died in this nation's largest natural disaster in recent memory, it's easy for politicians say, "We did all we could." or, "We will send as much funding as they need." But for some politicians, and one in particular it very hard to follow through with these promises.

Less than 50 days before hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast of the United States the Bush administration was still actively opposing attempts to shore up the coastline where Hurricane Katrina made landfall. In the recently passed Energy Bill, there is a provision that grants $1 billion to states with offshore drilling platforms for coastal improvement work. The majority of that money, $540 million, is slated to go to Louisiana, which is rapidly losing its coastline to erosion, a process that makes population centers like New Orleans more vulnerable to hurricane damage.

In a letter written by Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman on July 15 of this year, the White House took a hole paragraph to criticize this provision that would provide money to gulf coast cities most venerable to hurricane damage such as New Orleans. "The administration strongly opposes" the new funding, Bodman wrote. "These provisions are inconsistent with the President's 2006 Budget and would have a significant impact on the budget deficit."

Congress would go on to overrule the White House's objection to the provision and passed the energy. The money can now be used by states, including Mississippi and Alabama, for everything from marsh reconstruction to levee and road building. There is only one problem with this funding - it's simply not enough. It's a case of too little, too late. In just Louisiana, the cost of restoring the coastline was projected to top $14 billion. That was before Hurricane Katrina struck.

It's easy to criticize Bush now. Hindsight is always 20/20. But after Hurricane Katrina tears apart a much of the south you would think Bush could get it right and send the proper amount of federal funding to the disaster area. According to the Mayor of New Orleans he has failed in that too.

Mayor Ray Nagin had the most passionate interview of his life on last Thursday night with New Orleans radio station WWL-am. "We're getting reports and calls that [are] breaking my heart from people saying, 'I've been in my attic. I can't take it anymore. The water is up to my neck. I don't think I can hold out.' And that's happening as we speak." Nagin said the time has long passed for federal authorities to act on their promises.

"You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on man," Nagin said.

"I've been out there man. I flew in these helicopters, been in the crowds talking to people crying, don't know where their relatives are. I've done it all man, and I'll tell you man, I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming, that is coming. And my answer to that today is BS, where is the beef? Because there is no beef in this city. "

Nagin said, "Get every Greyhound bus in the country and get them moving."
Nagin called for a moratorium on press conferences "until the resources are in this city."

"They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying," he said.

Why can't the federal government get it together enough to save this city? This is now about saving lives in our own country. Could we not give Louisiana the full $14 billion dollars they needed to protect the coastline because we slated so much money in the 2006 budget for the war in Iraq? That is up for debate, but one thing is for sure. If we can spend all this money to rebuild Iraq we should be able spend the necessary money to rebuild the south.

If you are one of the many people that thinks disaster relief from the federal government for victims of Hurricane Katrina is coming to slow please consider giving money to private organizations that are already on the ground making a major difference. Please call 1-800-HELP-NOW to give to the Red Cross.


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