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Citizens of New Orleans Should Control Federal Budget

There is a story that all the New Orleans bashers are jumping all over. It seems some of the FEMA money sent to Katrina victims was "misspent." According to the Smoking Gun, here is a list of questionable expenditures from the GAO report.

  1. .45 calibre pistol--$1,300
  2. Gentlemen's club--$1,200
  3. Diamond engagement ring--$1,100
  4. Gambling--$1,000
  5. Bail Bond--$1,000
  6. Traffic tickets--$700
  7. Tatoo--$450
  8. Massage Parlor--$400
  9. Alcoholic beverages--$200
  10. Condoms--$150

For those of you who sat in the back of math class and hoped you wouldn't be called on, that's a total of 7,500 bucks. Now consider that about a million people got $2,000 a piece, that's an outlay of 2 billion dollars.

So out of a million people spending $2 billion dollars, 10 people "wasted" 7,500?? (and even some of these seem valid) Is this all they could find? Show me another federal program that efficent!

With results like this, I submit we close Congress and let the people of New Orleans make the next Federal budget.

Anyone jumping on this story really has to come to grips with the fact they are an idiot.

(Opps and a belated H/T to James at OTB


Comments (29)

As a postscript, I'll give ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

As a postscript, I'll give you thoughts as an evacuee about some of these:

1) .45 calibre pistol--$1,300
You saw the news, can you blame them? Sure we know NOW that 90% of what the news reported was bogus but at the time....

2) Gentlemen's club--$1,200
Having lived thru Katrina, I could make an argument that this is legit... but I won't.

3) Diamond engagement ring--$1,100
This is a tough call. (no really) People were given VISA cards with the money on them. Assuming the money was not being spent to give a ring to the stripper #2 met above, it seems obvious the purchaser was planning the purchase before the storm. Having said that, is there much difference between him putting this on "his" VISA and the FEMA VISA, or even writing a check?

This guy was probably in TX and they would not take an out of state check. He might have (like I did) have paid $2500+ for a months rent out of his own pocket and spent the "FEMA money" on the ring. In other words, we don't know the story.

4) Gambling--$1,000
HA- This is funny. The goverment allows gambling just so they can rake in the tax revenue. If the goverment thinks that gambling is a poor way for citizens to spend their money, why legalize gambling? In my book they have no right to complain. (OK that's more about legalized gambling than Katrina)

5) Bail Bond--$1,000
Geeze... The guy is in jail. It is hard to make the case that getting out of jail was NOT to his "immediate benifit."

6) Traffic tickets--$700
OK expense was legit. The guy had no lic and we all had to drive thousands of miles. He spent the money to become legal. Hard to argue with that.

7) Tatoo--$450
Um- No.

8) Massage Parlor--$400
See #7

9) Alcoholic beverages--$200
You lose your house and all your possessions and tell me you can't consume $200 of booze. See also #3.

10) Condoms--$150
It goes like this.... If there is a guy out there who has to buy condoms $150 worth at a time... I'm not going to give him grief about how he spends his money are you?

According to the <a href="h... (Below threshold)

According to the actual report, (page 28) that is but "some of the debit card activities we found that did not appear to be for essential disaster related items or services"... (emphasis mine)

heh- And compared the to mo... (Below threshold)
Paul:

heh- And compared the to money FEMA pissed away, $7,500 woudn't even pay the interest on it.

I'm compiling a series on the money FEMA has just pissed down the drain. It is amazing.

These were charges on cards... (Below threshold)
Synova:

These were charges on cards given out to individuals?

I don't see the problem. Just so long as the individuals don't get *more* because they spent what they had unwisely.

After Pinatubo the AF handed me a couple thousand in *cash* and during the evacuation and repatriation I spent that money on a lot of things. It was vital to have. No doubt other people with less need than me got the same fist full of money and spent it... should I care that they may have bought things that they didn't need?

One thing that I do know... keeping track of those expenses, approving them, checking afterward...

IT'S NOT EFFICIENT.

Keep track of a *million* people? Any idea how that would add to the total budget? If we want to talk about throwing money away we have to include those extra costs.

PLUS... people will spend for "essential" things out of their own pocket. Or use the cards for "essential" things and pay for those other items out of their own pockets. It all ends up the same.

"So out of a million people... (Below threshold)
J:

"So out of a million people spending $2 billion dollars, 10 people "wasted" 7,500?? (and even some of these seem valid) Is this all they could find? Show me another federal program that efficent! "

You don't seriously think that's it, do you?

"With results like this, I submit we close Congress and let the people of New Orleans make the next Federal budget. "

LOL.....see, and here I thought you didn't have a sense of humor........

That $1300.00 .45 just has... (Below threshold)

That $1300.00 .45 just has to be a gun to see. One can buy new .45s for around six C, this one had to have all the bells and whistles.

Peter, not necessarily. Wi... (Below threshold)

Peter, not necessarily. With resources severely hit and demand probably skyrocketing, I can picture a scenario where the cost of a .45 would shoot up to about $1300, especially if the person who bought it needed it quickly.

Plus, the .45 may have incl... (Below threshold)

Plus, the .45 may have included ammo, cleaning supplies, a holster, ect.

That $1300.00 .45 ... (Below threshold)
That $1300.00 .45 just has to be a gun to see. One can buy new .45s for around six C, this one had to have all the bells and whistles.

Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't pay an extra $700 for a gun that's got bells or whistles.

Next you'll be telling me I should take an accordion on a hunting trip.

These examples are obviousl... (Below threshold)
Drew:

These examples are obviously a joke, but nobody can argue the increases in crime and illegal dealings (drugs, etc.) resulting from these monies that were not observable by credit card transactions.

When it comes to human nature, the recent case of a Massachusetts dentist who was paying for sexual acts by way of drug prescriptions comes to mind. Handing some of these people $2,000.00 was akin to handing them their own prescription pad.

Should there be a lesson from this? Certainly. You can not enforce personal responsibility, especially in a situation like that. However, our real concern should be the irresponsible and ongoing pork barrel spending, and not just in the hurricane ravaged south. Trying to divert our attention with examples of how PEOPLE spend THEIR money is only too obvious. How about how the government is spending OUR money, or the money that isn't even there to spend?

"Next you'll be telling ... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

"Next you'll be telling me I should take an accordion on a hunting trip."

If you play like I do it makes a pretty good goose call.

that's a lot of condoms.</p... (Below threshold)

that's a lot of condoms.

that's a lot of condoms. i... (Below threshold)

that's a lot of condoms. i wonder if he got a discount for buying them in bulk?

whoops, ignore that previous comment. i hit "stop" when i thought of the second half of this one, but apparently it posted anyways.

The money cards were a bad ... (Below threshold)

The money cards were a bad idea regardless.

Give food and temporary shelter.

>The money cards were a bad... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>The money cards were a bad idea regardless.
Give food and temporary shelter.

Um Bill.... Can you descrive for the class how you would give food and "temporary shelter" to a million people in 47 different states?

"Um Bill.... Can you descri... (Below threshold)
J:

"Um Bill.... Can you descrive for the class how you would give food and "temporary shelter" to a million people in 47 different states?"

The Red Cross?

And Paul, these cards have nothing to do with shelter.....there's another program for that....

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/3640756.html

Or at least there was. No need to worry, the "(former?) people of N.O." are financial wizards....so I've been told.

1. Alcoholic beverages -- $... (Below threshold)

1. Alcoholic beverages -- $200
2. Tatoo -- $450
3. Condoms -- $150
4. Gentlemen's club -- $1,200
5. Bail Bond -- $1,000

One HELL of an evening -- Priceless!

After it was given, the mon... (Below threshold)
MikeB:

After it was given, the money was their's to do with as they saw fit. What they bought wasn't the problem as much it was a symptom of another problem. There's no legally justifiable reason that the Federal government should have given the money.

- MikeB

These cards were a bad idea... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

These cards were a bad idea. I am in the impact zone and the word on the street was that everybody there could have one of these cards. I am a small business owner and was out of work for a week. It cost me thousands, but I had an undamaged house, an undamaged business and no need at the time. I felt that the money should be used for people in dire need. There were a lot of people (not most) that took the money that really didn't need it. Who is at fault? The government (or Red Cross-I thought they were Red Cross cards) or the people that snapped the cards up. Legally they did nothing wrong, it was just not right. I was told by people I was a fool for not taking it. I don't know what the answer should be. Many people needed money. The banks were down. Many had no records because all was lost. The organization knew it wasn't working either because a week or two later they stopped the program.

Paul -If you had b... (Below threshold)
ts:

Paul -

If you had bothered to read the actual GAO testimony, you would see that 62.8% of the purchases made with the cards were ATM/cash withdrawals (over $24 million), and there is no way to know what was done with the money. And that is only one area that GAO discusses. The bogus SSNs, false addresses, and false claims will likely eclipse specific findings of improper purchases with the debit cards. Here's the link - http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06403t.pdf

how about 2 billion to bull... (Below threshold)
moseby:

how about 2 billion to bulldoze that shit hole city into the gulf. Enough already...we get it!

Gee Moseby, Tha... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Gee Moseby,
Thanks for the moral support. I hope I can be there for you when times are dark.

That $1300.00 .45 ... (Below threshold)
That $1300.00 .45 just has to be a gun to see. One can buy new .45s for around six C, this one had to have all the bells and whistles.

Not really. Sigs and Glocks might go for that, but HKs are more. $600 is about the price of a basemodel 1911. You can easily reach $1300 with the right factory options. That isn't even getting into true custom pistols.

I could drop $1,300 on a ne... (Below threshold)

I could drop $1,300 on a new .45 easily. Wilson Combat and Kimber handguns are right there in that price range, without the "bells and whistles.

I'd rather have my $400 Ruger .45 and spend the extra $900 on a nice shotgun, rifle, and ammo.

But to each his own.

>And Paul, these cards have... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>And Paul, these cards have nothing to do with shelter.....there's another program for that....

Please take the time to learn what they hell you are talking about before correcting someone.

======================

>If you had bothered to read the actual GAO testimony,

I did.

>you would see that 62.8% of the purchases made with the cards were ATM/cash withdrawals (over $24 million), and there is no way to know what was done with the money.

I know that. All that money and the GAO can only find maybe 2,000 of really bogus expenses? That changes my point not.

>And that is only one area that GAO discusses. The bogus SSNs, false addresses, and false claims will likely eclipse specific findings of improper purchases with the debit cards. [emp mine P]

HA! You didn't read the report kucklehead. Fraud far outstripped questionable spending by real victims. Just one call center in California had more fraud than all the questionable spending combined.

That's my point. (If you had read it) the people of New Orelans were far better custodiians of the money than the Feds. Thanks for proving that for me.

And the next time you admonish someone to read the source, you might want to do that yourself.
======================

Not to mention if you buy a gun you need ammo, holster et al.

Doc, with all due respect, ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Doc, with all due respect, you're off base on this one.

I get your point, but you tell me what had happened if the feds had not done it? You're on the North Shore so you did better but remember, if anyone was caught in Orleans or Jefferson for A MONTH after the storm they could be arrested. (I almost was ;-)

How can you dump a million people in the wild with no income?

Was the sytem perfect? Nope. But I think it was incredible how well it worked. (as a cynic, I was genuinely surprised.;-)

P

They still might do a bette... (Below threshold)
jp2:

They still might do a better job running the DHS...

Think about it! The .45 wa... (Below threshold)
D. Doré:

Think about it! The .45 was a major investment! Sure he had to pony up 65% of his FEMA Visa... but after his purchase, he then had the ability to get lots more of those FEMA Visa's from the families that were only going to use them for food and stuff like that.

Paul, I don't k... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Paul,
I don't know what the answer should of been, it was such a horrible situation. I have been thinking a lot of the early days today. The timeline is all a blur to me. I think it was just my reaction to people I knew that had plenty of money in the bank taking assistence that gave me a bad taste in my mouth over the way it was handled. If things had taken longer to get up and running again where I live, I would have been the fool for not taking the money. I have NO problem with the people in real need getting the cards, esp. people from New Orleans, Slidell, even Covington. It seems to me that FEMA's method is to throw the cards at everyone, then audit later and ask for a refund. Didn't they just ask Florida for a huge pay-back?




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