Saturday, September 03, 2005

'twas politics as usual that killed the city

(NOT a partisan rant)


Politics : n. From the Greek; Poly = Many , Tics= Blood sucking parasites

Today, and tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, our energies should be focused on search and rescue. While imperfect in its conception, and flawed in it's application, the efforts of the responders on the ground deserve our support and admiration. The cops, EMT's, doctors, nurses, firefighters, guard members, coast guard, FEMA, DMAT, CERT, military personnel, and civilians wading through a waist deep cesspool, while under hostile fire, to rescue the injured and stranded deserve no less.


Any perceived failures or delays in the response should not be blamed on FEMA, or the military, or the grunts on the ground.
They are doing an amazing job under impossibly difficult circumstances. Nor should the blame be laid at the feet of one political party or the other. Doing so is height of hypocrisy.


Taking partisan political advantage at a time of a national disaster is at best despicable, and at worst borders on treason. If our leaders from either party want to see the real culprit, they need only hold up a mirror.


Our inability to prevent this disaster, and our problems responding to it are caused ultimately by a systemic flaw in the way politicians spend our tax dollars. A flaw we have ignored or accepted for far to long.


This is not to dismiss the mistakes that were made before, during and after this disaster. Failures have occurred at the local, state, and federal level, and by the citizens themselves who either failed (or were unable) to evacuate, or who simply didn’t prepare to fend for themselves for 72 hours or more.
But these failures only compounded an existing felony.


Simply put, the disaster of New Orleans should never have occurred. It didn’t have to, we had ample warning, decades in fact, and we failed to respond responsibly to the obvious risk. Our politicians, past and present, had other `priorities’.


At some point, a reckoning will hopefully occur.
An accounting of the wasteful pork barrel politics over the past 30 years that have squandered HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars on useless `vanity' projects, designed to buy votes for congress critters on BOTH sides of the aisle. This is money that certainly could have been used for nobler purposes.


This is not an evil restricted to one party or another. It is endemic throughout politics, from the local levels to the halls of congress. It is how our government works. And it is a national disgrace.


A look at this year's highway bill, a 286 Billion dollar boondoggle saddled with more than 6500 congressional `earmarks', pet projects sponsored and added to the bill by politicians for no other reason than to buy votes, is enough to bring tears to your eyes. A full 9%, or 24 BILLION dollars, of this appropriation will go for these non-essential projects. And this is just one spending bill: the tip of the iceberg.


When I worked for a county EMS a number of years ago, the county commissioners had to make a choice. Spend $300,000 tax dollars to plant palm trees and shrubs in the county parks and business districts, or fund a badly needed 5th ambulance for the EMS service.
You guessed it, the county was beautified, and the EMS, charged with serving 100,000 mostly elderly residents, went begging. This decision literally cost people their lives. This egregious lapse in judgment was rectified the following year only after a county commissioner suffered a heart attack and had to wait 40 minutes for an ambulance to become available. Suddenly, when it was one of their own that nearly died, that 5th ambulance became a priority.


I can assure you that over the past few decades, thousands of similar bad decisions have been made in communities all across this great land of ours, including in New Orleans.


This selfish and cynical spending on senseless, non-essential projects is why money was not found to upgrade the levees to handle a CAT 5 storm years ago. This is the reason why our fire, police, EMS, and hospital emergency room departments around the country are understaffed, under-equipped, and underpaid. This is the reason why your city or town has been left with ageing and vulnerable infrastructures and will not be prepared when the next disaster strikes.


While those on the left will point at the money spent in Iraq as the cause of our budget shortfalls, and those on the right will counter with tales of runaway liberal social programs, the truth is far simpler and more disturbing.
Were it not for this disgraceful abuse of political power and our tax dollars by BOTH parties over the past 30 years, we would have had the money to do all of these things and more.


Don’t, however, expect any admissions of personal culpability from our elected representatives.
Self-righteous finger pointing, perhaps; but only across the aisle. Congressional commissions will be formed, and reports will be issued. The blame will be shifted, and some suitable patsy will be hung in their stead. Victory will be declared, the status quo will be maintained, and we will wait unprepared for the next disaster.


When the true extent of the neglect of our nation's security and infrastructure in favor of self aggrandizement and re-electability becomes known, I can only hope the American people decide to hold a party in Washington for all of the illustrious politicians that have brought us to this sad point in history.


A
nd if citizens of this country have any sense, they'll bring a rope
.

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