Thursday, September 22, 2005

Chronic Failure

Do the math.

Congress has already approved $62.3 billion for recovery and reconstruction after Katrina and the eventual cost could reach $200 billion or more.

The Iraq war and occupation have cost over $200 billion so far. The United States is spending $5.6 billion a month there, or almost $186 million a day.
The article from which I took these figures speaks to the connection between Hurricane Katrina and dwindling support for the war in Iraq. Assuming that the $200 billion projection for the Katrina recovery effort is accurate, it certainly makes the $5.6 billion/month Iraq bill a lot harder to swallow.

But it’s not just Katrina’s price tag that’s compounding disapproval for the war (and by extension, the President), the mismanagement of the initial Katrina response has a lot to do with it. Comparing apples to oranges? Not really. Bush sold Iraq to Americans as part of the larger war on terror. Another strategy Bush undertook to fight the war on terror was reorganizing several federal agencies under the new Department of Homeland Security. The general idea was that Homeland Security would give the executive branch the type of quick decision-making power it needs to respond to threats and make Americans safer.

Katrina was the first real test of the Homeland Security’s ability (via FEMA) to respond to a large scale disaster. The result? Slow reaction, bureaucratic miscues, thousands of lives lost: a miserable failure. Sure Katrina was a natural disaster and not a terrorist disaster, but terrorists are certainly capable of producing similar chaos by detonating a dirty bomb, blowing up power stations, or perhaps even breeching levees.

The point of all this is that Katrina is not just another hardship Bush has had to deal with, it is an intrinsic part of the same problem that is marring the second half of his presidency: he claimed he was making Americans safer, and he’s doing the opposite. He’s mismanaging money, putting unqualified people in high level positions, refusing to take accountability for his mistakes, and sticking stubbornly to policies that aren’t working.

Assuming that Americans care primarily about being safe at home and not nation building in Iraq (“We will fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” etc.) they elected the wrong man for the job.

--Matthew McCoy