There are a few things that make me mad.
Watching people die for no good reason is one of them.
And that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing the last few days from the New Orleans area. There are heroic efforts on the ground. This post is not about those true public servants, giving everything against impossible odds.
This post is about the federal and state governments.
Today — four full days after the hurricane hit — federal groups are finally arriving in meaningful numbers, though still obviously not enough. People were hungry in the streets; why did we not drop MREs (Meals ready-to-eat) from airplanes sooner?
The staggering lack of foresight in the state and federal governments in this country is maddening. It has come to light that, in years past, despite the efforts of the mayor of New Orleans, both the (democratic) Louisiana state government and (republican) federal administration did very little to help them improve the levees. Bush even refused multiple direct requests from the mayor to tour the area (well prior to the hurricane).
Louisiana emergency management officials went on TV earlier this week claiming that they couldn’t do much because their cellphones and blackberries were out. Think a little bit, folks — did you really expect cellphone towers to be a reliable emergency communication network after a hurricane? Ever heard of good ole’ 2-way radios? Shortwave anyone?
What about the gas prices? Perhaps if we had been investing more money into conservation and alternative fuel technology all these years, we wouldn’t be in such a mess.
And then there’s the staggering lack of a sense of urgency. After 9/11, federal and state governments countrywide sprang into action. After this hurricane, FEMA…. manages to have no idea where the victims are. Bush goes out playing a guitar. Other top officials seem to have a “life as usual” attitude. People are dying out there, and these officials see no need to try to make the bureacratic wheels turn faster to help them out?
FEMA was a particularly interesting case. On an interview with NPR yesterday, NPR reporters asked the director about all the suffering at the New Orleans convention center. The director flat-out asserted there was nobody at the convention center, accusing NPR’s reporters of being mistaken or lying. A staff member called NPR back half an hour later to say that they had now learned that there were people at the convention center.
But here’s what really takes the cake: FEMA officials saying that they shouldn’t do much because people chose to stay and their predicament is their own fault.
I think they need to get out a little more. They need to realize that many people have no means to evacuate, and no means to pay for a hotel once they’re gone. Some are too sick to move, or are caring for loved ones that are too sick to move. Some are too young or old. Many Americans don’t own a car, because they can’t afford it. Think about it: if you had no money, no car, and nowhere to go anywhere else, what would you do?
So yes, I am ticked at my government and extremely annoyed that my tax dollars are paying for a federal “response” that takes days to even meaningfully begin.