Bush’s policies have crippled disaster response capabilities
By Edward Alden
….For the past quarter century in Washington, since the Republican Ronald Reagan rode a conservative backlash all the way to the presidency, US politics has been dominated by the conviction that what was wrong with America would be solved by getting government off the people’s backs.
In Washington, the Republican orthodoxy that reigns at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has dictated that taxes can go down but never up. Federal tax revenues as a percentage of the economy have dropped to the lowest levels since the early 1950s….
But that is little comfort to the tens of thousands stranded in primitive conditions in New Orleans who are begging for government help, and will face months and years of rebuilding their lives even after it comes.
There are at least three reasons why the hurricane may mark a turning point in the US debate over the role of government. First, the deep tax cuts enacted in 2001 – which President George W. Bush now wants extended permanently – left no room for government initiatives that might have prevented the catastrophe and increased capacity to respond.
Also, War and Piece has a great email from a Dutch activist–they are communists there too, who apparently believe not only in saving people who don’t have cars, but animals too:
Watching events unfold in the New Orleans area I had flashbacks of the 1995 river Rhine and Meuse floods in Holland. Then, in just under two days aurthorities staged a forced evacuation of almost half a million people (total Dutch pop. is 16 million) and 2 million heads of cattle, pigs etc. It was the most orderly mass-operation I have ever seen.
I live near Holland’s main disaster hospital AMC, which can effectively triple its capacity from 1,200 to 4,000 patients in 3 hours by opening up its six-story undergound disaster unit, and witnessed how hundreds of ambulances, army trucks and dozens of medicopters (including German and Belgian air-borne operating theatres) brought in hospital patients, people from care homes and the disabled from the disaster areas. Roads were closed to all other traffic, in hospitals across the country an overwhelming – and fortunatly unnecessary – number of staff and volunteers were on stand-by.
The material damage was incredible, but there were no casualties, there were three meals every day for every temporarily displaced man, woman and child, all cows were fed and milked, there was no looting. National public TV within days set up a disaster charity show which raised over 60M guilders (EUR 30M) to pay for damages not covered by insurance.
What I’m seeing on TV now is a third-world country with a government unwilling or incompetent to fulfill its tasks. I feel very, very sorry for the residents of the area.