September 5, 2005

#192: Off the hook...

P. Krugman

In Killed by Contempt (09/05/05) Paul Krugman continues the Bush-bashing frenzy that he and the liberal media began last week. He starts this way:

“I'm not letting state and local officials off the hook, but federal officials had access to resources that could have made all the difference, but were never mobilized.”
“Experts say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the crucial window during which prompt action can save many lives. Yet action after Katrina was anything but prompt.”
Just about everything in these two statements is wrong. Let’s start with the critical 72 hours. This is also the amount of time that states are told they must rely on their own preparedness plans until federal assistance can arrive. And just what were those preparedness plans in Louisiana? They did not have an emergency evacuation plan, apparently–at least not for the poor, ill and elderly people the local politicians now profess to care so much about. That seems pretty elemental. Stashing them in the Super Dome and Convention Center was a spur of the moment decision made without adequate provisioning for food, water and security. What kind of preparedness is that? But what is particularly damning is that Louisiana and New Orleans have received three-quarters of a billion dollars in emergency and terrorism aide since 9/11. Where did that money go, we wonder? If the levees were in such bad condition, as local politicians now claim was common knowledge, some repair work would have been a good project, no? Or, maybe securing the water system? Or, how about some police training for handling looting after emergencies? We look forward to the official inquiry and to tracking of the disposition of those emergency funds and the lack of any visible signs of preparedness.

Now to Krugman's other claim that federal officials had access to resources that could have made all the difference, but were never mobilized. In a turn of justice so pure we could only dream about, this statement is completely undone by a NY Times news article concerning the “blame game” being played by officials in the same edition as Krugman's column. Buried deep in the story is this:

One sign of the continuing battle over who was in charge was Governor Blanco's refusal to sign an agreement proposed by the White House to share control of National Guard forces with the federal authorities. Under the White House plan, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré would oversee both the National Guard and the active duty federal troops, reporting jointly to the president and Ms. Blanco
The governor, who had asked President Bush for 40,000 troops on Wednesday, did not want to cede control of the National Guard and did not believe signing the order would speed the arrival of troops. "She would lose control when she had been in control from the very beginning," said Ms. Bottcher, the governor's press secretary.
These two paragraphs contain some breathtaking admissions. First we learn that the governor did not even ask for troops until Wednesday when most of the liberal politicians and media were already bashing Bush for being late. Second, she refused to allow federalization of the National Guard which is the principal means by which the federal government gets manpower for emergency assistance. Third, she admits to being “in control from the very beginning.” This last admission is truly amazing. If she was so in control why had she not called up her own National Guard rather than demanding troops from the president. Or, if she had called them up why were they not in New Orleans by Wednesday restoring order? We will be watching for more information on the governors decision-making timeline. [Note: The quote above is a work in progress. The Times has changed it twice from one addition to another and to the on-line edition. But we can assure readers that each word was in at least one edition].

In the meantime, we think Krugman should have started his column thusly:

“I’m not letting the federal government off the hook, but the problems in Louisiana were primarily a failure of leadership and incompetence at the level of local governments.”
[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at September 5, 2005 2:32 PM
Weblog by John Weidner