NEW ORLEANS - Across the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, thousands upon thousands of blue tarps are being nailed to wind-damaged roofs, a visible sign of government assistance.
The blue sheeting - a godsend to residents whose homes are threatened by rain - is rapidly becoming the largest roofing project in the nation's history.
It isn't coming cheap.
Knight Ridder has found that a lack of oversight, generous contracting deals and poor planning mean that government agencies are shelling out as much as 10 times what the temporary fix would normally cost.
It is beyond cavil by now (i.e., I won't look up my now archived post on it) that Michael Brown admitted publicly that FEMA considered the flooding of New Orleans the "worst case scenario" for the entire country. So, set aside the fumbling response and the lame excuses and finger-pointing about who is or is not a "first responder", and you get down to this question:
Why hadn't FEMA planned for this?
Why is so much money being wasted on housing and roofing? Why are people scattered like leaves in the wind, from Utah to National Guard camps in Oklahoma to the Radisson Hotel at Kennedy Airport to Charleston (South Carolina? West Virginia? Even FEMA isn't sure)?
Forget "Why didn't FEMA respond in a timely manner?," and all the questions about who is responsible first. The overriding question should be: why was FEMA caught so flat-footed by a disaster it knew would be the worst possible, one it therefore had time to plan for? What has FEMA been doing all this time?
And why didn't Michael Chertoff see to it that such planning was ready to go, that housing was planned, and shelter, and rebuilding? That is his job, isn't it?
Why are we still paying these people to be so wrong?