April 29, 2006

Mishandling Disasters at FEMA

The Sideshow links to a Paul Krugman column which dissects the real problem with FEMA. In The Crony Fairy, Krugman exposes the magical thinking that seems to thrive in Washington when people like Joe Liberman (R-DLC) propose nixing FEMA for a new agency that will formed in the same sinkhole that forced out many of the competent people that once worked in FEMA.

The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There’s no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies’ names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.

That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Krugman's column points out that FEMA's record of success is largely a matter of who is in charge, but he didn't mention that one of the main reasons that FEMA didn't work well in the Reagan/Bush One era was because it had been hijacked by the National Security state. Here's what I found last August when we started to realize how terribly managed FEMA was in the face of the biggest challenge it had ever had:

This is the second time FEMA has been hijacked by the Republicans to focus almost exclusively on everything but natural disasters. During the Reagan era, Oliver North and James Secord laundered black budget dollars to prepare for a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. By the time of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, an investigation into the funding for dealing with natural disasters showed that 90% of the budget for FEMA was for "black" or classified operations, including building deep underground bunkers and designing goverment continuity programs. (Remember Cheney and Rumsfeld had been part of this program during the 1980s? They are clearly prepared for taking over at a moments notice if Bush is unable to give orders.)

Today, just weeks away from another hurricane season that promises to be a bad one, FEMA has once more been used as a dumping ground for Bush's cronys. Worse yet, when BushCo was looking for more competent people to fill the position, they couldn't find anyone who wanted the job. In fact, things are still so bad at FEMA that it is over 20% under headcount.

Can we stop this fatal incompetency? Well, certainly not until we get ourselves a new government. And to get one before 2008, we better impeach the bastards. Meanwhile, people who are in the path of those hurricanes should be checking with their states to see how well-prepared they are to handle things without any federal help.

Posted by Mary at April 29, 2006 01:15 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |