Friday, September 02, 2005

ignoring the fema report: déjà vu

Shame, shame, shame ... why so much talk of shame?

Katrina coverage reminds me of the Keep America Beautiful campaign, when we spent millions guilting individuals into putting litter “in its place” rather than allocating that money to proper industry reform we knew we needed. Journalists today buy into this slogan of individual shame and syndicate that meme without reflecting on the implications. It is like antimuckraking, papering over an era of institutional negligence that led up to the catastrophe in the first place. Is it too complicated, too much legislative tedium to cover?

At least not for Paul Krugman. His op-ed trains the focus back where it should be, on George W. Bush—not during the crisis, but long before, when he unmanned the floodgates of an avertable, imminent disaster. Don’t we recall from September 11th that FEMA gave Conde a list? We knew from this list that the three most likely catastrophes threatening our country were a terrorist attack on New York, another major earthquake in San Francisco, and the third--and most deadly--a hurricane in New Orleans. So what did Bush do? He absorbed FEMA into HSA and reappropriated the budget (meant to repair the now broken levees) to general counterterrorism initiatives. Sometimes I wonder if he really cannot read. This is the only explanation for such blatant strategic ineptitude.

So, yeah there's crushing shame to be borne in our complicity, but the legitimate cause for shame is having elected Bush in the first place. He has now proven beyond a reasonable doubt that is ill-equipped for the job.