Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Krugman makes a vital point

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The government doesn’t work well under the GOP because the GOP wants it to not work well. Krugman:

… Mr. Bush is playing Commander in Chief. On Sunday morning the White House Web site featured photos of the president talking to Gulf state governors about Hurricane Gustav while ostentatiously clutching a red folder labeled “Classified.” On Monday, instead of speaking at the convention, reports suggest that Mr. Bush will address the nation about the storm.

And a report on Politico.com suggested that John McCain might give a speech “from the devastation zone if the storm hits the U.S. coast with the ferocity feared by forecasters.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Let’s start with that red folder. Assuming that the folder contained something other than scrap paper, is the planned response to a hurricane a state secret? Are we worried that tropical storm systems will discover our weak points? Are we fighting a Global War on Weather?

Actually, that’s not quite as funny as it sounds. Some observers have pointed out that daily briefings on preparations for Gustav, which should be coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which is, you know, supposed to manage emergencies — have been coming, instead, from the U.S. military’s Northern Command.

It’s not hard to see why. Top positions at FEMA are no longer held by obviously unqualified political hacks and cronies. But a recent report by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said that the agency has made only “limited progress” in the area of “mission assignments” — that is, in its ability to coordinate the response to a crisis. So FEMA still isn’t up to carrying out its principal task.

That’s no accident. FEMA’s degradation, from one of the government’s most admired agencies to a laughingstock, wasn’t an isolated event; it was the result of the G.O.P.’s underlying philosophy. Simply put, when the government is run by a political party committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out.

The political cost of Katrina shocked the Bush administration into trying to undo some of the damage at FEMA, and it’s a good bet that the initial response to Gustav will be better (it could hardly be worse). But because the political philosophy responsible for FEMA’s decline hasn’t changed, the administration hasn’t been able to reverse the agency’s learned incompetence. Three years after Katrina, and a year past a Congressional deadline, FEMA still doesn’t have a strategy for housing disaster victims.

Which brings us back to the politics of the current storm.

Earlier this year Mr. McCain, as part of his strategy of distancing himself from the current administration, condemned Mr. Bush’s response to Katrina. If he’d been president at the time, he says, “I would’ve landed my airplane at the nearest Air Force base and come over personally.”

Um, that completely misses the point. The problem with the Bush administration’s response to Katrina wasn’t the president’s failure to show up promptly for his photo op. It was the failure of FEMA and other degraded agencies to show up promptly with food, water and first aid.

And let’s hope that Mr. McCain doesn’t jet into the disaster area in Gustav’s aftermath. …

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2008 at 8:44 am

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