Wednesday, January 04, 2006
The $29 Billion Lie
Most of the Times-Picayune's article on final Senate passage focused on the failure to secure an additional $6 billion for levees, which was tied to passage of a controversial rider to approve drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Reserve or ANWAR.
The real story was missed. As reported by Reuter's news wire:
Most of the money would come from previously approved emergency funds and will be spent on rebuilding broken levees, providing seed money for economic development and reconstructing schools and infrastructure following last summer's Hurricane Katrina and two subsequent storms.
BizNewOrleans ran an AP story also highlighting how the $29 billion aid package would siphon off existing Katrina relief funds, away from survivors and into reconstruction aid packages. The DeRidder-Beauregard Louisiana Daily News also ran this story, but I didn't see it in the T-P.
A massive package of federal aid for Hurricane Katrina victims would come mostly from a dwindling FEMA disaster fund, leaving agency officials wondering today whether they will need more money to help storm evacuees beyond next spring.
Noted Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant final piece, published Dec. 22, is headlined "The disaster is in the response". In his swan song, he takes up the issue of the alleged $29 billion in aid.
"...the number turns out to be a fraud. In fact, it represents the allocation of large sums of money that Congress has already appropriated. More precisely, much less than half of it -- about $11.5 billion -- is what they call ''new" grant money. The rest is simply the result of the reshuffling of already appropriated sums.
Perhaps you recall the atmosphere in September in the immediate aftermath of the horror that Katrina wreaked. Within three weeks, Congress had passed, and Bush had signed into law, roughly $62 billion in appropriations to pay for the massive cleanup.
The horrendous damage caused by the hurricane should have produced a reallocation of national priorities sufficient to pay for a sensible reconstruction plan. Instead there is no plan, just more federal government blue smoke and mirrors leaving millions of people to beg each year for budgetary table scraps.
As Oliphant reports, of the original $62 billion in aid appropriate by Congress, only about one-third had actually been spent. Portions of that were repackaged to make up 60% of the December aid package.
The new money is largely the $11.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants, with $6.2 billion slated for Louisiana. The money would be funneled through the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which pledged Dec. 23 to spend it on three to major areas in which to distribute the money: economic development, housing and infrastructure.
I interpret that to mean it will go to anyone but storm victims. There was discussion immediately after that Entergy New Orleans, the bankrupt utility, would try to claim hundreds of millions of that to rebuild the city's utilities. The parent company of Entergy, which has been perfectly happy to harvest the profits of doing business in New Orleans, refuses to spend a single-penny on reconstruction.
It is increasingly clear to any rational person that Bush lied in his televised national speech about reconstructing the Gulf Coast. He and his cronies are not intereted in reconstructing the Gulf Coast any more than they were interested in democracy or reconstruction for Iraq. They're only in it for the money, for themselves and their fat cat friends.
It was Mr. Bush who blocked the last minute chances of the proposal by Baton Rouge GOP Rep. Richard Baker, which would have provided a 60% buyout of ruined homes, with the owner receiving 60% of equity, and the mortgage holder accepting 60% of the mortgage's value as payment in full.
Baker originally announced the White House would back his bill. But he told the NOLA Times-Picayune Dec. 21 that the White House withdrew its support when it became apparent the bill might past.
Without this legislation, hundreds of thousands of homeonwers on the Gulf Coast will be left to the tender mercies of the new, credit card company sponsored bankruptcy "reform" bill. It will mean they will ultimately be forced to pay out most if not all of the value of their mortgages on their ruined properties.
Just another example of compassionate conservatism.
Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies.
But you know what they say (or at least what George says):
"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again.
Yeah, George, whatever.
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