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Why are conservatives fighting Spendulus? We remember Katrina

Over $100 billion in government spending and tax breaks were set aside to help the people of New Orleans and Mississippi who were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and over three years later there is still little to show for it. I'll let Daniel Rothschild from Reason Magazine add the details:

Talk with people on the Gulf Coast area and you'll soon learn the primary problem they face is not a lack of funding, but the mass confusion created by federal, state, and local governments about the rules of the game when it comes to rebuilding. Confusing and contradictory regulations, showboating by politicians, and stunningly complex bureaucracy have only exacerbated the problems of people who've already been through hell and have kept people from making the decisions they need to make to get on with their lives. This creates what economist Emily Chamlee-Wright calls "signal noise"--the persistent uncertainty created by uncoordinated government at every step of the recovery process.


The federal government has already allocated a substantial amount of money to Gulf Coast reconstruction. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as of July 2007 the federal government had appropriated $94.8 billion for Katrina recovery. Congress has allowed the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow another $17 billion from the government to cover the deficit it racked up paying out Katrina claims. The federal government has also created $16 billion in targeted tax breaks through Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone credits and other programs.

So it's not a lack of funding that's the problem. It's spending the money. Under existing laws, FEMA can't simply write checks to Katrina victims. Some recipients would undoubtedly squander their funds, and there would be widespread fraud. This isn't idle speculation. According to the Government Accountability Office, immediately after Katrina hit, about a billion dollars of emergency aid--16 percent of the total--was lost to fraudulent claims. Even legitimately obtained pre-paid debit cards given to aid Katrina's victims were used to buy champagne, guns, tattoos, and porn.

Unfortunately, the other option--the one currently in place--isn't any better: government micromanagement of payouts. This is where you get the Road Home program's Byzantine policies, which includes dozens of dizzying, intermediate steps between filing a claim and the receipt of funds and, consequently, the plodding pace of recovery we've seen over the last two years. Because of legitimate fears that money will be squandered, mismanaged, or lost to fraud, the money sits unused.

Two years after Katrina, the CBO reports that FEMA had spent only about 66 percent of its supplemental appropriations for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Only 28 percent of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding had been spent. A billion dollars in approved Small Business Administration loans have yet to be dispersed. And the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has yet to even allocate 15 percent of its Katrina-specific budget, much less disperse it. (emphasis added)

Hurry up and wait. Or "FUBAR". Take your pick.

The stimulus chicken littles are telling us that we have to act now because people are suffering now and they need help now! Admittedly there are major differences between natural disaster relief and economic stimulus, but let me assure you that in both situations one fact remains the same -- the most inefficient and problematic way to distribute money is to let the government do it. That being the case, why are Democrats still insisting that most of their "immediate" aid money is to be distributed through bureaucratic channels in the form of red tape-laden government contracts?

Of course with the Spendulus bill there is one ironic ray of hope. If most of this spending is, as many suspect, simply political payola from the President and Democratic Congressional leaders to local political bosses as a post-election "thank you," the money may get paid out of the government treasury faster; politicians don't like to wait for payoffs. But even if that happens, the money is still likely to languish while its newly-enriched endpoint caretakers wade through the enormous gulf of government paperwork and rules that must be followed before anyone or anything can actually be hired or purchased.

How is this going to provide an "immediate" stimulus? It isn't, and most people with common sense know that. We're not unpatriotic; we're frightened -- frightened of $1 trillion in deficit spending, frightened of inflation as a result of economic tampering and over-regulation by the government, and frightened of a painful recession triggered and prolonged by all of those well-intentioned but poorly-crafted policies.

Again I ask, is this what Americans thought "hope and change" would be?


PS - On yesterday's Sean Hannity show a guest tossed out the best understanding of Spendulus that I have heard so far: "A sub-prime mortgage on America's future". It's not any harder to understand than that, folks.


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Comments (20)

Michael,That is on... (Below threshold)


That is one of the more reasonable posts I've seen on the Porkulus bill so far. The "sub prime mortgage on America's future" hit the nail right on the head.

Ditto... (Below threshold)


"We're not unpatriotic, we'... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

"We're not unpatriotic, we're frightened."
A very apt description of Republicans.
Whose appointees were in charge of the SBA and HUD since Katrina?

Barry owns this poison pill... (Below threshold)

Barry owns this poison pill lock stock and barrel. God luck. ww

Bruce, maybe you would like... (Below threshold)

Bruce, maybe you would like to give us some examples of how Congressional Democrats worked to bypass government red tape and get money directly to the victims of Katrina. Or explain how things will be magically efficient now that Democrats are in charge of everything.

Which party was in charge o... (Below threshold)

Which party was in charge of Fannie and Freddie, Bruce? The original problem which sparked the entire meltdown?

Which party blocked social security reform, saying there was nothing wrong with the program? (Not that it's a problem right now - just another looming trouble that will be ignored as long as possible and then the Democrats will whine about the Republicans who didn't do anything back in the early 2000s! - ignoring their own blocking of any reform attempts...)

Which party INSISTED that money be thrown out NOW, IMMEDIATELY, WITHOUT HESITATION on anything Katrina related? Because to do anything else was simply racist?

Which party was the Mayor of New Orleans, who sat on his hands in the time leading UP to Katrina, and dithered around AFTERWARDS, stalling efforts to get relief in?

Which party was the Governer of Louisiana beholding to - who ALSO sat on her hands POST Katrina, stalling relief efforts?

Which party has controlled Louisiana politics for the last few decades, turning corruption and graft into a fine art?

We have a political class that is confident of its own infallibility, while their knowledge of how the real world operates is getting more and more remote. We have government of, by, and for Lawyers - the rest of us are simply peons who should shut up and let our betters handle things as they see fit.

New Orleans and LA prior to... (Below threshold)

New Orleans and LA prior to Katrina were where we are heading across the country. Almost all liberal Democrats were running the state and spending, spending, spending. And then, when they had time to prepare, they ran for the tall grass and blamed everyone else. In our weakened economic condition, what Katrina did to LA is what will happen to the rest of the country if we are hit with another 9/11 attack.

But then, democrats aren't ... (Below threshold)

But then, democrats aren't interested in America's future. Democrats are interested in their OWN future and in that of the Marxist agenda. Slight difference.

People in Kentucky froze to... (Below threshold)

People in Kentucky froze to death while Barry had a warm and cozy superbowl party. ww

People in Kentucky froze... (Below threshold)

People in Kentucky froze to death while Barry had a warm and cozy superbowl party.

George Bush was doing a photo op with McCain & his birthday cake while people drown, babies and old people died at the Convention Center.

Oh my God~ I will never forget the image of a mother crying because her baby had no milk. 5 freaking days-----5 freaking days.



Can the leader for the repu... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Can the leader for the republicans just bar Snowe Collins and SPectre from even being in any meetings with the Senate republicans. I mean they are democrats. I wouldnt be suprised if they dont pass notes along to Reid and Pelosi on what the republicans say behind closed doors.

Justice58 - shiny disco bal... (Below threshold)

Justice58 - shiny disco ball noted.

What, noting on Barack Hussein Obama's FEMA and their lack of/slow response?

I thought not.

What, noting on Barack H... (Below threshold)

What, noting on Barack Hussein Obama's FEMA and their lack of/slow response?

Your crap won't work, Marc. Nothing can compare with what George Bush & the Government's horrible 5 day response did to poor black Katrina victims. You cannot undo the shame. Poor black victims of Katrina died thinking their government would be there for them. But NOT.


Jack & Jill Politics....


perhaps because despite the tortured racial history of this land, even these black people never thought that the 21st century incarnation of this government fail to plan for the evacutaion of people who didn't own cars? Even these black people never imagined, in their wildest nightmares that the president would fly right over them and say the head official was doing a heckuva job. Despite slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality and economic apartheid, these black people held out hope that when push came to shove the government would not sponsor an internationally broadcast snuff film in which they were the stars.

Lets see....Did thousands die during the ice storm? Were little children separated from their mothers?

<a href="http://www.jackand... (Below threshold)


Tosh quoted:

The failure of the levee system. This was predictable and was the subject of intense speculation for years before the actual catastrophe. The city knew the levees would fail at some time (infrastructure). They gambled and lost. This is a cause. But this is not the killer...

What did kill people was for upwards of 72 hours, no agency or authority mounted anything resembling a response. I mean all that had to be done is to chopper in bottled water and MRE's and that effort could have begun that afternoon. That alone would have mediated the human devastation. People would have made there way to the supplies; people would have helped others to those nodes. I'm not saying everyone would have survived, but the situation was rapidly approaching Lord of the Flies.

j58 - "Your crap won't ... (Below threshold)

j58 - "Your crap won't work, Marc."

Oh, but it does "work," on all but the demented race baters such as yourself.

P.S. Have you hugged your "babies" yet today?

Thousands did not die in Ne... (Below threshold)

Thousands did not die in New Orleans. Thousands did loot, which seems to be the normal practice of people who are always on the dole.

President Bush flew over NOLA to see the damage, but Barry stayed in his warm white house for his party. Barry hates white people.

Some of the trolls really, really have mental issues. Cue the Twilight Zone music. ww

Thousands did not die in... (Below threshold)

Thousands did not die in New Orleans.

Yes it did. Some bodies will never be found & identified.

Thousands did loot, which seems to be the normal practice of people who are always on the dole.

You know the poor black people were so wrong for looting to survive. Didn't they know when you're poor, eating is a mofo-ing luxury! How f-ing dare them wanting to feed their families while the government turned a blind eye for basic food & water. But we must let Bernard Madoff off because he's white & that's aiight! (my middle finger pointing at you)

j58 - yeah, 'cause we all k... (Below threshold)

j58 - yeah, 'cause we all know that blue jeans, tennis shoes and TV sets should be on everyone's dinner table. (not to mention a nursing home bus)

Your buffoonery never stops.

j58 - um... the link that'... (Below threshold)

j58 - um... the link that's quoted asshola. That's who says it.

We need you!During a... (Below threshold)
Sandra Speer:

We need you!
During a time when the President is asking all to do their part to help end this time of economic distress, we should join together against those that are costing us and the government money with deception. President Obama is finding many actions of the government and elected officials "inexcusable and irresponsible." Much of this misconduct is occurring not just among the top officials, we are finding some of the possible misuse of funds occurring inside the different Government agencies that work directly with the public. Many of these individuals outwardly admit that they feel that they are underpaid and should not be expected to do anything other than the minimum.
For example, let us use HUD, US Housing and Urban Development as our example as they have been at the tip of most our tongues since the economic crisis began. How much money is being offered to those buying homes that should be condemned? How much money is being paid in rental assistance for tenants to live in units that have serious health hazards? How much money is being wasted paying for these units because the proper investigations and inspections are not being ordered or performed? Think of all the money that the lack of investigations are costing you the tax payer and the Government. Someone may have lived in one of those units long enough to acquire a chronic disease that the Government may be paying for, for the rest of their lives. And if this person lived in the unit as a child, how much money is the Government ending up paying in their medical bills and living expenses throughout this person's life? Just because Government employees have been known to do the minimum that it takes to keep their jobs in the past, does that make it right for us to let this continue and ignore the President's plea for change?
If we want jobs, money to have in our pockets to pay our bills with; we need to do what the President is asking us to do. And that does not include sitting back and complaining about not being able to buy a new car. Talk is not cheap; those that are only talking are making up approximately 90% of the cause for the worst financial emergency that this country has seen in possibly 30-50 years.
I am asking that my situation not be repeated. I am possibly forced to face being ill the rest of my life as the result of Government employees telling me what they would help me with, while doing nothing. Are Government employees our new mentors with all the answers? I was forced to live in a housing unit that was unfit as the landlord was allowed to lie about the repairs. I moved into the apartment(I am a Hurricane Katrina Survivor) willing to work as hard as necessary to become self-sufficient. As a result of words without performance on the part of the Government employees and the landlord, I am physically unable work to my full capacity, which is what it would take for me to be completely self-sufficient financially. In addition, I am positive that if you do a survey you may find that I am possibly one of millions of people needing lifetime Government assistance for similar reasons.
I was told to gather documentation, and I did. I have documentation of all the negligence of my landlord, copies of papers he signed and phone numbers that the HUD employee requested. She, and an employee from another Government agency, told me that they would help me fight my case. In addition, the HUD employee stated that this evidence would help her be able to force the landlord to refund the Government for the rent that he was paid during the time that he refused to fix the major appliances.
Please help me assist the Government, not only with helping those of us in need, but to gain money back that the you and the Government need. President Obama wants those that need help to be able to gain it, and for Government employees to be proud to be among the portion of our population that are in positions to make a difference in our system. Stories of those that are willing to make a difference in these economically depressed times should be told, as lies can kill and cost the innocent money.
The first step to ending this financially depressed time that we are living through, is to stop hiding from those that are causing it by helping me fight and tell this story; we are where change begins, but not with talk, with doing. President Obama is correct, we as Americans have to be willing to band together, not against one another if we want a positive tomorrow for ourselves and our children.
Sandra Speer






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