The Katrina aid that wasn't

Hurricane season is upon us (Hello, Dolly), so it's time to drag out the still heaving corpse of Hurricane Katrina. There was always this weird mismatch between Bush administration tales of how much aid was going to the victims and the pictures of forlorn, unaided and then outraged victims. Given the huge amount of federal aid, some may have thought that ungrateful. But what was "given" can be taken away by just moving a few decimal points:

Federal officials vastly overestimated the value of hurricane relief supplies given away earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported Monday.

The General Services Administration, which manages federal property, over-counted cases of toilet paper, plastic sporks and other cutlery, by mistakenly counting a single item as being worth as much as multiple items contained in a package of goods.

The original GSA estimate of $85 million should have been $18.5 million, according to figures released by GSA and FEMA.

The household goods were supposed to go to people whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. But the items were stored in warehouses in Louisiana, and then Fort Worth, Texas. A recent CNN investigative story exposed that those materials never made it to storm victims. (CNN)

This is being billed as a "math error." But when a single utensil is given the value of an entire case of that utensil, it seems more like a competency problem. That "math error" inflated $36,000 of utensils to $36 million. A supposed $1.5 million in toilet paper actually amounted to only $18,000 worth. So much for the vaunted aid given so freely by the Bush administration. No wonder it never reached the victims. Most of it never existed in the first place.

One more hurricane season to go in the Bush administration. Keep your fingers crossed.


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To be honest I'm not surprised.

This administration has promoted and promulgated dishonesty and lack of accountability from its inception. It's simply par for the course that after seven+ years of such leadership, the GSA & FEMA are incapable of appropriate management and auditability - two things that require honesty and accountability.

That said - it's the people of New Orleans and environs who have been devastated by this lack. On a personal note, my hair-stylist is an evacuee from New Orleans - and she has been living with her sister these past three years while trying to get her home and life back. She has received zero aid from any agencies, and has essentially lost everything she worked for in New Orleans (she had her own small salon - now she's just a chair, again)

Compassionate conservatives indeed!

The sporks are probably stored with the WMD and the "nucular" materials that Saddam was acquiring from Niger, likely in Cheney's undisclosed location. One more thing this administration claimed that never actually existed, sort of like their integrity.

The President and Congress spent tens of billions on aid. It is no surprise then that a math error has amounted to tens of millions.

Your criticism, revere, is hardly justified by an error that comprises about a tenth of a percent of total federal aid....

By Herb West (not verified) on 23 Jul 2008 #permalink

Given the scope of what happened from Florida to Texas Revere, I simply dont think that anyone, or any one or multiple agencies could have gotten it right in your eyes. Those eyes always have cast a very socialist nature on things that needed to be done.

There is a thing called personal responsibility and governmental responsibility. WTF did they do in the 50's when the levees were overtopped in the 9th Ward? Did they get any federal aid? Was the Army called in after 3 days and held at bay by the law because of Posse Comitatus? All disasters are local and by law are controlled by the people in charge of them. This convenient three day pause wasnt because the President wanted it, it was because Blanco like Lawton Chiles did to Bush 1 didnt sign the federal assistance declaration as required by law.

File a lawsuit and bring it to the people. Then you can indict and convict her as necessary by the testimony that was given. The Congress gave her a pass because and to quote, "I am not here to talk about that Senator" She should be compelled to testify as to her actions because after three days the State was, "still assessing". When contacted by the White House Gov. Blanco said, "Send everything you've got". Thats not a requisite formal request as required by the law and they were trying to set GWB up for an impeachment. Sure Rove and the boys stopped him but it was Nagin who was going to out them both on the tarmac of the MSY airport.

The dumb bitch STILL wanted the federal troops under her control and that is prohibited, smacked, smoked, fucked, or anyway you want to put it against the law and she knew it.

Here is a bit more socialism for you. Those people that didnt have a job before Katrina, didnt after Katrina now want more federal assistance having gotten more than anyone in the history of this entire planet.

To quote a phrase used in reference to Indonesia often about aid, "there will be no end to it. That is something that has to end because it starts with feeding them, it ends when they become totally social welfared by generation and the system collapses from financial ruin. What you are talking about above is a money problem and accounting. It doesnt take away the fact that these people were not productive for the better part and of that part that did work very few lived without some sort of government assistance. New Orleans is a small city with a lot of people in it. The ones that could afford it lived somewhere else and were only moderately affected by Katrina.

I for one dont think that government is the answer to anything. You do much better if you are prepared on your own and by only taking care of yourself and those that you might encounter along that way of getting there. There is no more save the world Revere. Thats over. Too expensive, too many people and sorry but this is just another round of whats happening and going to happen with more regularity.

Those supplies werent sent there because those people for the better part had already gotten their issue. You complained rightly about govt trailers and the amount of formaldehyde. The contractors are being sued for using off specification materials. But its better than sitting out in the rain even if there is a residue. Exposure to the weather likely would kill you outright on a cold night, formaldehyde laden trailers is a question mark. I said it before, those trailers are much better than what most of them were used to living in.

Tony-The aid was there had she applied for it. Too late likely now. What would you suggest? The government wants to get into hair styling now?

By M. Randolp;h Kruger (not verified) on 23 Jul 2008 #permalink

Randy, this may sound stupid, instead of trying to hold back a tide that will get higher, why not move the "small city" to higher ground? It would be the cheaper option, wouldn't it? A fresh start? Good planning? Well built buildings? Hurricane resistant buildings?

This conversation wouldnt be taking place at all if the Miss. River side of the levee system had failed. That would have dumped the equiv. of 20-30 yard dump truck loads of sand every hour into the place and buried it within a few days. It would have brought it up to grade. 300 million was spent on ":levees" by the USGovt. under grants to the State of Louisiana that doled it out to the parishes. Problem is that they cant account for more than 2 million right now and that was on an overpass to a casino and a fountain. No wonder she didnt want to talk about it. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you... and on"

There is no guarantee that any of this would have done anything but if they had actually spent the money on the levees they might have had a fighting chance.

When warned they should have ordered the mandatory evacuation but they like so many nowadays ignored the warning. Then because everyone wants a safety net we spent more on this in all of US history. Bottom line is that personal responsibility doesnt include personal stupidity. You saw the housing that they were in? I again say that a formaldehyde ridden trailer for six months likely was better than what they had prior to it.

All encompassing government.... Sounds like socialism/communism to me. They already have the media by the short ones and if Obama is elected then you'll see the destruction of our economy, taxes off the scale and as a result Americas edge will finally be gone. Defeatist? Hardly. Look what happened under Carter. 21% interest rates. You dont need a job man, you need a check and a permanent subsidy for rent, food, housing, healthcare.

I am from the government and I am here to help.

Victoria... the land behind NO is actually lower than the area around it. Its basically a lake without water in it (until recently). The river if you are in the zoo is almost ten feet above you. You climb out onto the river walk and then look back in and see that it wouldnt take crap to sink it again. Any breach, any levee overtopped and its all over again. The best idea would be to bring the sand and mud in from the river and then start filling the lake in. THEN, build a levee system that is ten to fifteen feet above the new grade. If it gets over it after that then you need to just burn the place to the ground and let the river have it. You can sit in the casino for hours and watch the Army Corps scouring the bottom with huge sand pumps putting it onto barges that they haul out to sea and dump. No, this is going to happen again. When someone tells you that the waves are at 23 feet and your levee is at 20 then there are going to be problems. Spike Lee hyped it too by getting people to say that the levees were blown. More class and racial warfare. Some of it deserved, quite a bit of it not. GWB couldnt by law set foot in Louisiana with federal troops without the receipt AND acceptance of a federal disaster declaration. No such order was received until that day on the tarmac (day 3) after Katrina. Haley Barbour the gov of MS sent and got his receipt on day one. Blanco didnt issue hers until day three. The troops rolled out of Camp Shelby in convoys as far as they could before night for a 200 plus mile run. This is in vehicles with governors that limit you to 50 mph. No nighttime convoys and so on that Friday at noon here they come to the Dome. Ate breakfast, lined up and off to NO they went. By the way... If there had been any waders or people with boats, there was water and food only four hundred yards away in water that was up to your chest. I think I would have risked it on day two myself. But no, better to sit on the overpass, bitch about the human condition and above all blast GWB and the lack of a federal response. Go do a search on the response to Hurr. Andrew. Both were Democrat governors. Both failed to issue the declaration request until day three and both Bushies got the blame for it... Convenient.? Hardly.

Same thing happened when the tornado outbreak hit last year in Kansas. Smart assed Dem governor stood up and said that they were having trouble with getting trucks. Why? Because they were all in Iraq she said. Uh-uh. The now deceased Tony Snow popped up and said they had people on the ground and in the state command center. Further that they had not received a request for anything other than radios which had been delivered to them in under four hours.

NEVER, EVER believe what you hear in the media because unlike the days of yesteryear, there is no integrity here in it. Its all a left wing media blitz that we are supposed to just accept as fact. Farthest thing from it. Some things they will get right but 80% of the time they are spinning for the libs.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 23 Jul 2008 #permalink

Aside from a heart-felt "Hear, Hear," for you Randolph, just one correction that only furthers your excellent barrage of a definitive rebuttle. The first contact between the tearful Blanco and the President did not occur 3 days after the storm, when she cried, "Send everything!" It occurred on the Sunday night (I believe it was that day of the week) that the President CALLED BLANCO and asked her if there was anything she needed and assured her that everything and everyone in the Federal government stood ready to assist her. She REASSURED HIM that she could handle the impending situation. This is a prime example of how liberals cannot imagine the existence of enemies, dangers to this nation, or things that go "Booh!" in the night.

P.S. I must add a missing adverbial phrase to the above: "It was on the Sunday night PRIOR TO THE STORM'S LANDFALL,..." Without that, I failed to communicate a most important point about the timing of the President's INITIATION of the discussion about Federal aid.

Overcharging? Where could the administration gotten an idea like that? Maybe from the medical system that invented the $15 aspirin tablet?

Chris: Without trying to defend doctors, you are referring to the difference between costs and charges in hospitals. Blame private health insurers and hospitals for that one.

Anybody been to Iowa lately?

1. Got along fine WITHOUT FEMA.
2. FEMA came in and got along fine WITH them too
3. People there actually have pride enough to feel GUILTY about taking federal money.

Lesson: It seems the backbone of America makes the best of any situation and has no chip on their shoulder. No matter how big government becomes, it will never take better care of us then we can ourselves. No one should be "given" anything and certainly should not expect it.

Patch: Sounds too much like an empty platitude to me. Do you include police and fire protection? Public education? Emergency care? National security? Respect? Justice? That's the trouble with platitudes. They don't get us anywhere.

Police and fire protection are local. As is public education Revere. That is unless you want whomever is in the White House and Congress deciding what is good for your kids. Hey, national fire protection forces now thats the ticket.

Perhaps the feds should stick to just national security? Its not a platitude to describe respect. Justice? Oh please where has anyone gotten that in the last 40 years? Now we have "hostile work environments" and you can sue to get money out of your employer. Try that in China or Russia and the PLA or the skinheads of Putin will visit you in the night.

Half of this country is whipped up by a bunch of jerks on one side of the other and its diverting attention from the real problems. FEMA only has about 3000 employees so someone tell me how they were supposed to handle something that by law they hadnt been handed until the famous, "You are doing a heckuva job Brownie" bullshit hit the airwaves about Katrina.

It wouldnt hurt for GWB to read the papers and watch TV too. He is probably a lot like me and that is that we all need to turn that shit off and get back to taking care of our kids. But this is about Katrina and supplies and the accounting for them. Its about assessments. Those assessments are that the poor and homeless in NO will still be poor and homeless next week, next year and ten years from now. Giving them handouts simply isnt going to fix the problems. The federal government is also powerless to do anything but just give them handouts and that encompasses everything you note Revere. I have a better idea. How about dropping all the premises that it might be a capitalist society that you want, and just call it what it is and that is socialism. We tried that under Carter and the commode flushed.

Phila, I dont know how old you are but if Obama makes it then I can assure you that things will get a LOT worse than they are now. Those that have jobs will accelerate to the unemployment line. Everything he has expressed as a view has indicated to me that he will tax and spend. Then the economy will tank because the Fed will have no other recourse but to raise interest rates. Buphonia indeed.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 24 Jul 2008 #permalink

Revere- We're talking about value or worth here, not "costs" or "charges." FEMA overestimated by a factor of 4.59 ($85M vs. $18.5M according to GSA). When a hospital charges $15 for a tablet bought in quantity at retail for $.01, they imply the value is 1500 higher than it is. That degree of dishonesty seems worse to me than FEMA's mistake. I don't blame hospitals or private insurers for that. I blame governments that mandate free care for some at the expense of others. FEMA is much the same, having a mandate to provide free relief items to some at the expense of others. Anytime the government provides (or mandates) free anything for some at the expense of others, the situation is ripe for waste, fraud and abuse.

Chris: Well it's your private health insurance that paid for that aspirin at that rate. Take it up with them.

So you don't want a military? You don't want the FDA and CDC? I'm glad you won't be taking my social security money. You don't want FDIC insuring your bank account? You don't want USDA trying to keep meat and poultry safe? Or OSHA preventing workers from dying needlessly? You don't want the FCC? You don't want the VA?

There are so many things you don't want. I hope you don't get them. But I want them and am willing to pay for them in taxes.

Revere- You missed my point. I guess I wasn't clear. I object to programs that take from some (taxes) and give something free to others. The military provides collective security services, so they earn their pay which comes from our taxes. The FDA and CDC also perform services, though I might choose to trim them down and reduce their budgets. The FDIC should be replaced with private deposit insurance (for those who want it). Private insurers did more to promote worker safety than OSHA ever did or ever will. But since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, the price of medical care has skyrocketed, creating the issue of affordable health care. As Dennis Miller said, if you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free.

You know why we have so many single moms in the US? Its because government is the replacement for daddies. But its really not just that. They go out and have babies that will be born into a permanent sub culture in this country. They cant end the welfare mess because there is too much socialism in it. Government subsidized housing, government subsidized babies, government subsidized health care.

Musical chairs and the US goes when the music finally stops. That may happen pretty soon if US Treasury notes and bonds are not bought Katrina accelerated a problem to the end result and that is destitute people. All of the social welfare countries are coming to the end of their ropes. We provided the military cover for them all. Now we have a military thats sucking the money dry, the Arabs and their oil sucking nearly a trillion dollars out of here a year, and our own welfare system. The music is about to quit playing. Raising debt ceilings is ridiculous. I am a cash in the bank person and if its not there I dont spend it. Katrina got a blank check and the bills for it are coming due now. You dont think that they got a fair shake Revere? I would say that moving the population of a city to other places alone makes that statement incorrect. Its a storm, not a cash cow for people to suck off of. Sooner or later these bills are going to come due and the ability to pay in this country is about done. Pick any of the three and remove it and I guarantee you that the other two will rise to suck up what that other one doesnt.

Trailers that were shit, ice that became contaminated, supplies that never made it to the people. Complete balls up as far as I am concerned and its for only one reason Revere. Lack of personal responsibility to take care of ones self. If the system collapses for any reason all of this socialism will affect far more people than it would if they had been personally responsible. Rather than hundreds of thousands taking a hit, you ensure that millions would.

Next time lets just say you are on your own and let each state deal with their own problems...period.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 24 Jul 2008 #permalink

Chris: Having a healthy population is also a collective good. It is more productive and we are protected against infectious disease. We've already done without FDIC once. It was called the Depression. Since protecting workers is something I know something about and I've seen a lot of dead and dying ones, I think you would be hard pressed to say that OSHA has not made American workplaces substantially safer. You just don't know what they were like before OSHA, apparently. I do. In the last analysis you don't have any facts, just opinions on this. That's not unusual, and I could be tasked in some areas with the same thing. There are some things we won't know until we try them. We've tried private health insurance and fee for service medicine (which I remember well as my father practiced under that system) and they both were unsatisfactory. They didn't work. You can also fashion universal health so it won't work well, either, and relying on private health insurance, IMO, is one way to do it. Single payer, which works elsewhere -- Medicare for all, which works here -- is what we will be trying next. But I don't think you should take advantage of it -- on principle. I will welcome it, however.

Chris, I think if you look at the time line of events, you'll find that Medicare and Medicaid predate the rise of the HMO in the American medical system. I think you'll also find that the rise in medical costs dovetails nicely with the appearance of HMOs and their ilk far more than it does with Medicare/Medicaid.

Unless you'd like to argue that the prohibitive costs of health care started back in the 50's.

I can only posit this link;…

for evidence that neocon nutjobs are suffering the same cognitive dissonance as other IDiots.

I'm sorry about this rudeness but reality is real and no amount of denialism will ever change it. Holding onto discredited dogma in the face of overwhelming evidence of the suffering it causes to yourself and to others is a disgrace to yourself.

Shame on you Chris. Shame on you M (didn't J Edgar Hoover have First Initial Affectation Syndrome?) Randolph Kruger.

PS - Why does the word 'denialism' get flagged up by my spell check?

eddie: Can you lower down your tone here? Why do you have to be so self-righteous?

Honest to you, I object to this kind of rudeness.

palwan: Maybe I missed something, but there was nothing rude or self-righteous about eddie's comment. Finger wagging is pretty much the norm around here and we have all (you included) been guilty of it.

It seems like a lot of the comments on this one are missing the point. Surely, whether or not you think federal aid is a good idea, you can agree that accurately counting and reporting federal aid is a good idea.

Above and beyond the need to keep standards of honesty and competence among those in positions of trust and power(yeah, I know, the cat is not only out of the bag, but living off a cayman islands slush fund, on this one); having accurate numbers is the only way to figure out if federal aid is a good idea or not. That is a question of data, not faith, and it cannot be answered if the data are nonsense.

Regardless of whether or not we believe that a given program or course of action is the right one, surely it still matters that it be done correctly and accounted accurately? Otherwise we are just flailing about and following whatever feels true at any given moment.

To be fair, many of the commenters in the pharyngula post linked to above were of the opinion that neocons were clever but evil people, taking advantage of the ignorance of religious zealots.

I, on the other hand, would argue that the analysis that the post referred to was evidence of a great similarity between the religious side and the economic. It showed what I would refer to as 'faith based economics' with the same problems of argument from authority, denialism, lack of morality or concern for harm, etc as other forms of fundamentalism.

In short; flat earth / flat tax; what's the difference? Or should that be; flat earth / scorched earth...

Shame on me Eddie... there is no denialism on my part..... You saw politics in full unmitigated swing in Katrina. Politics got people killed and it started with that schoolteacher that the Democrats put in as governor. Blanco's people told her from the beginning that never in the history of the US has any military service been under the control of a state. They were trying to set a trap for GWB is all it was plain and simple. He didnt bite. He took the hit for it just as his father did and would have tried to have him impeached. Everything fell into place after that. Blanco sat on AF1 and demanded that those troops be put under her control. Nagin just told them both he was going to go out on the tarmac and put it to both of them.

They were all culpable... Nagin for not ordering the round up of those souls who wouldnt leave or to get the "next of kin" notification, Blanco for about the same along with not signing the goddamn order for three days, and Bush for not invoking the national emergency clause and declaring a state of emergency or martial law. The first might have been impeachable and the second clearly he has the right to do in just about case.

If nothing else he should have gone to Congress for an immediate resolution to make it legal for him to roll those troops in there. He effed up by not putting it where it needed to be and that was on that schoolteachers shoulders.

BTW-FEMA also told the governor what she needed to do some five times when her rhetoric started to be aimed at the USGovt.

I've got a much better idea. Next time out, dont do shit from a Federal level. They didnt in the 1950's when the levees failed then. Get out of the handout business and make people responsible for themselves. What a concept!

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 27 Jul 2008 #permalink

Randy: Just out of curiosity, where does your electric power come from? (I really don't know if Memphis is served by TVA or not; Is it?)

All of Tennessee is TVA as is most of S. Kentucky, N. Alabama, N. Georgia, N. Miss and parts of VA and W. VA.

In particular TVA operates 3 nukes in Browns Ferry -Bama, Watts Bar-TN, and Sequoyah... all are fed by cooling waters of the Tennessee River.

The hydroplants are listed here:

There are 29 of them.

There is an environmentalist movement to have the dams removed so that the Tennessee can return to its normal operation to flood every year in the springtime....

There are 15 steam fired plants that feed off the coal of KY, TN, VA and W. VA.

A list of them is here:

Four of them may be permanently offline because they cant get upgrade permits to clean up the burning process to comply with the Clean Air Act. Amazing...Cant get a permit to clean up?

An assessment was done for Congress as to what TVA could do if they only had nuke and hydro with full operations for six months to a year and the answer was that they could pull 2/3rds of their normal load with hydro and nukes under normal usage. If people cut back then its nearly 100%. The steam fired ones make up the difference for the nukes in the winter when they are under maintenance normally. If BF struck they could pretty much take care of the needs of the affected states as long as everyone cut back on the lights and as long as the water levels were high enough to ensure hydro production.

All of those steam fired plants have been upped to five weeks of coal on storage at the plants, two weeks at the yard. After thats used they shut down.......So it would be progressively getting worse each day until demand outpaced supply, then its load shedding or brown outs selectively. It would indeed be a damned sight warmer here than it would in New York or Detroit for likely long enough that power could be sent north to help out the load up there. We are almost as bad as Iraq is in this respect... Environmental concerns has now threatened the NE in particular for the power grid. Barely keeping pace with usage.

Several of those TVA coal plants though have retrofitted to gas as a secondary for the burning process and I am not sure how many that is. Between Entergy which is the Gulf States from central Bama, central MS, central GA which is nearly all gas fired and one or two nukes they could keep the South going pretty well.

Duke, Entergy and TVA if they all were online and cut off from the North on the national power grid could pretty well take care of business. Thank Frist for the upping of the coal supply as he finally convinced them to do it after he left office, or so I am told.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 27 Jul 2008 #permalink

Randy: How do you like your socialist electricity? LOL.

You mean the one where I want them to cut it loose and sell it? Pretty good right now for TVA....We are blocked by the law here to go out onto the grid and get it like Missouri does.

In other words, we could get our power cheaper elsewhere, but this is a Democrat thing. I wanted them to sell it five years ago piece by piece with the dams under the control of TVA for obvious reasons. No private operators of dams in the US. Too many rice bowls will empty out and they are the "employer" in quite a few towns... Kind of like Katrina levee builders. They just want to see how long the coffee takes to brew...Did I mention the TVA junkets?

TVA is part of a holdover from the "New Deal" and Eleanor visited several while they were under construction such as Pickwick and Wilson dams.

Here is another reason to sell it off..... Go a long way towards the public debt that TVA is sucking 500 million a year from.

TVA gives back 25 cents on every dollar to the power companies that use them for "line maintenance" even though a stretch of towers only costs them 8 bucks a day to maintain. Its not socialized Revere... More like captives.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 27 Jul 2008 #permalink

Randy: I guess it's good you weren't around when Lillienthal started it as you would have had a fit. If I were you I'd just disconnect from the socialist grid right now. But if you sell it off, as a taxpayer whose parents helped pay for it, I'd like some of that money back. But yes, the TVA was a "Democrat thing." Please remember that when you turn on your lights.

And what is ConEd Revere? .... I'll tell you what it is. Its something we dont have a right to access.

Yep, them New Deal programs which were all socialist and protectionist deepened the recession into a Depression. Last time we had that and something that close was under Carter. .

BTW-I can assure you that TVA doesnt give away their generation either. Cheaper than California and New York, but not by much. Addin the fact that we are bound by law to use them and MLGW and its sure like a monopoly but Democrat controlled with one simple word....LAW.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 27 Jul 2008 #permalink

Randy: This is just silly rightwing whacko stuff. Meds are in order.