Credit: I found the article referred to here on buzzflash.com
Like many across the nation, our family today included the people in New Orleans and surrounding areas of Louisiana and Mississippi in our prayers.
The city of New Orleans tonight lies mostly under water, and this morning there were reports that flood control pumps, some decades old, had failed and a flood control levee had been breached. One can only wonder what would have happend had the city suffered a direct hit, devastation that would very likely have rendered one of America's major cities uninhabitable.
Unfortunately, it must be said, so I will say it here, that we should not forget what President Bush and Republicans in Congress have given the New Orleans district of the Corps of Engineers: massive budget cuts, especially for flood control projects.
In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.
It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.
I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to....
The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget.
Well, cutting budgets for government projects: it's what Republicans do. And to be sure, the article says that a similar fight last year resulted in some cuts (although in fairness it is hard to see how they could have prevented the current disaster). But it should be pointed out that flood control projects bear the brunt of the cut:
One of the hardest-hit areas of the New Orleans district's budget is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes. SELA's budget is being drained from $36.5 million awarded in 2005 to $10.4 million suggested for 2006 by the House of Representatives and the president....
The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.
And the irony is, it doesn't even make economic sense. The damage today is likely to be in the tens of billions of dollars, at least. If New Orleans were to receive a direct hit, the damage could easily be into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet, Republicans in Congress and President Bush aren't even willing to invest a fraction of a percent as much to prevent a re-run of what we saw today.
NOTE: I'm NOT blaming President Bush for the disaster in New Orleans. Obviously, it was hit by a huge hurricane, it is below sea level, and the problems with the flood control system go back decades. However, I am saying that fixing these problems require an investment of tax dollars, that he and Congress haven't made protecting America from natural disasters a priority, and the facts of the matter need to be publicized.