Why was FEMA’s response to Katrina so apathetic? Why did FEMA prevent help from arriving earlier, and discourage aid from outside sources for so long? Let’s put a few things together and see what we get.
In comparing its handling of Katrina to its management of Iraq, ,” Paul Krugman writes, in his latest column: “All that’s missing from the Katrina story is an expensive reconstruction effort, with lucrative deals for politically connected companies, that fails to deliver essential services. But give it time – they’re working on that, too.”
Indeed they are, and we can only begin to count the ways.
crossposted at kos and http://dreamingup.blogspot.com
A storm is growing around Joseph Allbaugh, the Bush-appointed FEMA director before the current one, Michael Brown. Allbaugh is a former campaign manager for GW Bush. After leaving FEMA in the care of Brown, his college roommate, he went into the lobbying business with former national Republican honcho Haley Barbour, now governor of Mississippi. He got his wife a gig in the firm, as well as Neil Bush, the Bush brother the family tries not to talk about.
Allbaugh is putting his disaster experience (gained entirely as head of FEMA, since he had no previous qualifications) to good use. On Democracy Now! Amy Goodman quoted the Washington Post as noting that Allbaugh is helping Louisiana,to `coordinate the private sector response to the storm.'”
In response,Judd Legum, research director for the Center for American Progress, added this:. “And what’s interesting is that Allbaugh actually beat Michael Brown, the current director of FEMA down to Louisiana. He was there far in advance of when Michael Brown came down, in Louisiana, essentially securing private contracts for his clients. And he recently, although the contract was signed before he started representing Halliburton, secured the agreement of the government to tap into that contract to clean up naval bases in the Louisiana area. So, he’s already paying dividends for Halliburton, certainly, and probably will for a lot of his other clients as this very large disaster relief effort continues. “
This may not be just an ironic indication of where the Bushcorps priorities are. It may be an indication of why FEMA’s response was so apathetic, and why FEMA initially spurned help from so many sources, both within the US and from outside. The whole idea may have been to turn over disaster relief to Bushcorp’s corporate partners, like Halliburton. Again, pretty much as they’ve done in Iraq.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Allbaugh’s presence has also drawn the attention of the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group. Citing Allbaugh’s connection to Halliburton, “the government has got to stop stacking senior positions with people who are repeatedly cashing in on the public trust in order to further private commercial interests,” said Danielle Brian, the group’s executive director.
There’s potential for a lot of cashing-in. Of the $51.8 billion just allocated for Katrina zone relief, the Republican controlled Congress put $50 billion in the hands of Allbaugh’s roommate, Mike Brown at FEMA. (Although Brown has just been taken off the Katrina job, he still heads FEMA. It’s not clear what his role will be in disperal of funds.)
If Bush-backing corporations cash in on this as they did on all those billions spent on Iraq and Homeland Security, they’re likely to make out even better. President Bush issued an executive order that permits federal contractors in the Katrina zone to pay below the prevailing wage. That means less money for workers, and more of that $50 billion for Bush’s greedy corporate pals. It is also likely to mean the kind of substandard work that has kept Iraq unreconstructed.
Two Democrats immediately protested. “The administration is using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities,” Rep. George Miller of California Miller said.
“One of the things the American people are very concerned about is shabby work and that certainly is true about the families whose houses are going to be rebuilt and buildings that are going to be restored,” said Senator Ted Kennedy.
But Joe Allbaugh, Halliburton and Dick Cheney (who still profits from his Halliburton stock) aren’t complaining. Mike Brown may be a little upset that he’s only getting to funnel the money (and may not even get to do that now), but there’s a payday ahead for him, too, no doubt.
And with his executive track record so far, Neil’s brother is going to need some help finding another job.