September 28, 2005

Wanna know why the levees in New Orleans failed?

Then check out David Sirota's article about how the GOP's budget-cutting mania made it just a matter of time until New Orleans fell victim to a major hurricane.

Despite what right-wingers are saying, environmentalists didn't cause the disaster. Instead, it 's Dubya and the right-wing Republican Congress who share the blame. They started turning their budget axe on the Army Corps of Engineers and its projects in the New Orleans area all the way back in the prez's first budget in 2001 — and their penny-wise, pound-foolish fiscal policies led to the Gulf Coast disaster that the nation is dealing today.

The Washington Times headline on January 20, 2004, told it all: "Bush Wants Tax Cuts to Stay." The article reported that even with a war, record budget deficits and dangerously crumbling infrastructure, the president would make a new, $1 trillion tax cut plan the centerpiece of his State of the Union address.

And once again, just days after the speech, the White House on February 2 released a budget with another massive cut to infrastructure and public works projects — this time to the tune of $460 million. As the Denver Post later reported, "the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control project sought $100 million in U.S. aid to strengthen the levees holding back the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, but the Bush administration offered a paltry $16.5 million." The Chicago Tribune noted that the Army Corps of Engineers had also requested $27 million to pay for hurricane protection upgrades around Lake Pontchartrain?but the White House pared that back to $3.9 million. Meanwhile, budget cuts forced the corps to delay seven projects that included enlarging critical levees.

These latest cuts came just as the previous ones were starting to wreak havoc. Five days after Bush?s budget was released, the Times-Picayune reported that "the Army Corps of Engineers doesn?t have money to keep its dozen major flood-protection projects going" simultaneously.

More bad news arrived in the spring. Gaps in levees around Lake Pontchartrain, which were supposed to be filled by 2004, would not be filled because of budget shortfalls. Corps officials told the Times-Picayune in April "that the lack of money will leave gaps in the structure, weakening its effectiveness and pushing back its completion date." Worse, because budget cuts had been compounding for three years straight, "even after all the gaps are closed, the levee must settle for several more years until it reaches its final height." By June, the newspaper reported that "for the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area?s east bank hurricane levees."

Sirota's story contains much more than the excerpt above. Make sure to go ">over here and read the rest of it.

Via In These Times.

Posted by Magpie at September 28, 2005 12:22 PM | US News | Technorati links |