Thursday, October 06, 2005

Choices and Ideology

Molly Ivins (2005) suggests that “it's tacky to start playing the blame game before the dead are even counted. It is not too soon, however, to make a point that needs to be hammered home again and again, and that is that government policies have real consequences in people's lives.”

Ivins adds that “This is not "just politics" or blaming for political advantage. This is about the real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities. And about who winds up paying the price for those policies.”

New Orleans is so vulnerable to hurricanes largely because of the gradual disappearance of the wetlands on the Gulf Coast that once stood as a natural buffer between the city and storms coming in from the water. Ivins asserts that “Many environmentalists will tell you that more than a century's interference with the natural flow of the Mississippi is the root cause of the problem, cutting off the movement of alluvial soil to the river's great delta.”

Is there a government-wide movement away from basing policy on science, expertise and professionalism, and in favor of choices based on ideology? Ivins thinks so. “If you're wondering what the ideological position on flood management might be, look at the pictures of New Orleans -- it seems to consist of gutting the programs that do anything.”

Government policies did not just increase the impact of the storm, but played a part in hampering the subsequent relief effort. This happened because the Louisiana National Guard has been weakened by: assignments in Iraq (35% of its personnel), equipment committed to the Iraq war (dozens of its high-water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators have been sent abroad. Ivins notes that “I hate to be picky, but why do they need high-water vehicles in Iraq?”), added difficulty in recruiting for the Guard, because people are afraid of being sent to Iraq if they join.

Ivins relates these issues to “the original policy decision to go into Iraq without enough soldiers and the subsequent failure to admit that mistake and to rectify it by instituting a draft.”

The levees of New Orleans, two of which were broken and flooded the city, also were victims of Iraq war spending, according to Ivins. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, said on June 8, 2004, “It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq.”


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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8:52 AM  

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