Public outrage is clearly growing over the federal government's woefully inadequate program for housing the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Last week a group of survivors filed the first of what are likely to be several lawsuits alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to live up to its responsibilities. The recovery effort has been subject to blistering criticism from conservative, nonpartisan and liberal groups alike.This Administration really refuses to learn from its mistakes, and so will go on making them repeatedly and relentlessly.
The same basic question is this: Why did the Bush administration focus on trailer parks built by FEMA - which is actually not a housing agency - instead of giving the lead role to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has so much experience on this issue?
Many, including the Brookings Institution and the conservative Heritage Foundation, urged the administration to switch on HUD's famously successful Section 8 program, which gives families government vouchers to find decent housing in the private real estate market. That program worked well after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California. But the White House - which seems less interested in conservative philosophy about how to make government programs work than with simply cutting the amount of money that gets spent on poor people - has been working feverishly to cripple HUD and destroy the Section 8 voucher program for years.
So the administration rigged up a hastily thought out program that is less flexible and less helpful than Section 8 - and confusing in the bargain. Still focused on tax cuts for the wealthy, the administration is apparently hoping that people who need housing will be frustrated by the difficult process of applying for federal relief dollars and simply give up and go away.
An object lesson in repentance: sooner of later, you have to acknowledge you were wrong.
...and here is a direct statement of the political cost:
With Hurricane Katrina already costing the federal government tens of billions of dollars, more than 8 in 10 Americans are very or somewhat concerned that the $5 billion being spent each month on the war in Iraq is draining away money that could be used in the United States, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.This doesn't help the people on the Gulf Coast directly, but it's a much better indicator of American concerns than Bush's speech in Alaska was today.
"We've spent too much time and effort over there," said Jean Stubbs, 53, of Kentucky, who agreed to be interviewed after taking part in the poll and who identified herself as an independent. "We need to get out of there. There are just too many other things going on here at home. The biggest thing right now is the people who were hit by Katrina."
Joshua Rose, 25, an independent from Arcanum, Ohio, echoed those concerns. "I don't know what he's going to do to deal with Katrina," he said, referring to President Bush. "Where is the money coming from? I hope he cuts back on Iraq. I hope he's worrying about us in the U.S. today."