For the past month or so, I have tried to stay away from beating the dead horse of hurricane relief. But this week I have to speak up. My observations, like most Americans, have included television and internet and radio news. But I had the opportunity to go one on one with a friend who worked as a relief worker that traveled to Mississippi to assist in the clean up.
Let me summarize what I have heard, read or seen through the eyes of my friend.
President Bush cut his vacation short to fly over the devastation in New Orleans. Not true. The president's staff had said that he would be on vacation until set date. He left on the scheduled date to fly over Katrina's attack of the Gulf Coast. He did fly over making a foolish comment about his partying years in the Big Easy. Later he said how proud he was of FEMA director Michael "Brownie" Brown for his immediate effort and response. No early departure. But he did fly over the effective area.
Brownie said he wasn't aware of the stadiums in New Orleans being used for a shelter until he saw it on TV. Excuse me? When the head of the organization needs to watch TV to see what is happening on his agency's behalf we are in trouble. He really had time to watch TV during the first week after the hurricane hit? If I would have been him, and wanted to watch TV I would have turned on something lighter than the news. If you are there experiencing it, TV could be an overload. But then again, if you weren't there, TV news could keep you in touch. But Brownie was there, wasn't he?
Brownie resigns as head of FEMA only to be hired back as a consultant to the agency.
Numerous no bid contracts have been issued. I didn't buy it with Halliburton in Iraq and I am not going to start believing in it now.
Contributions are being collected by everyone. Relief work is seems to be limited to individuals and religious organizations. In the week my friend was there, she saw no government supplies and what the workers had for supplies and food came from individuals wanting to help. I bought more bottled water that week to send then I have in my life.
The Congress approves $62.3 billion in aid with limited or no restrictions. Only 11 members of the House and none in the Senate voted against the bill. How could you vote against sending aid to these states? If I don't know where the money is going, and there are no checks on how the 62.3 billion is spent, I vote nay. If I remember correctly, the House and Senate did a similar expenditure a couple years ago with no checks and balances for a War on Terrorism. And what have we spent there? $200 billion plus. And they voted without reading or limiting the major cuts in our freedoms with the passage of the Patriot Act, but I regress.
Rita came a calling even before Katrina's effect left town and stirred things up even more.
El presidente states that contractors in the Gulf State region with cleanup responsibilities do not have to abide by government wage requirements. If there were folks that needed to be paid a fair wage, it would be the folks trying to rebuild their lives while helping others throughout the south. I guess certain laws can be voided by the President in times when they are needed most.
Taxpayer's for Common Sense started monitoring contracts. Here are just a few of the strange purchases/contracts using your tax dollars.
- $28.50 for a pizza cutter with a 4" blade from Giga Incorporated of Macon, Georgia
- $109.35 for a new pastry decorating bag from Powers Industrial Equipment, Inc.
- $276.84 for 3 new steak knives from Lamson & Goodnow Manufacturing Co.
- $583.76 for a filing cabinet from Configuration Incorporated
- $88,584.24 for a combat assault and tactical vehicle purchased from Skyland Equipment Company
- $281,200 for athletic and sporting goods equipment from the Coleman Company
- $1,457,200 for 1000 Gateway laptops from Red River Computer Co, hundreds of dollars more than the price per unit advertised on the internet. (Why didn't they try the home shopping network? They would have gotten a better price.)
- $2,494,392.10 for Pen Activated Computer Tablets and Accessories
Now if all of this wasn't enough, this week word was out that FEMA is spending $11 million a day on hotels for the refugees. $11 million? From Casper, Wyoming to Des Moines, Iowa to Anchorage, Alaska. Excuse me? Anchorage? Word was that trailer homes were going to be brought in for those who had to escape for their lives but thousands of the trailers are sitting empty. Apartments are empty throughout the country and more specifically the south that had originally been contracted for evacuees. Before the month is up, FEMA will have spent ½ billion dollars on housing.
Granted we have never seen an evacuation the size of this one but maybe we should be better prepared on how to deal with an emergency. In California, during the 1994 Northridge earthquakes, individuals were provided with vouchers for housing instead of the hotel route. And with the rapid response team coming from the not for profit groups and churches, don't you think they would have stepped up to help out with housing. Our church offered but no takers. We have offered homes for families and orphans from Rita and Katrina with no calls back.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the Republican Study Committee said: "We simply can't allow a catastrophe of nature to become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren." Let's help these folks get back on their feet without taking our financial feet out from under the country. Yes, it is possible. It is called restraint. And when we show a little restraint as a country, like most of its' citizens have to do monthly, we won't need to keep the light on any longer. And everyone will sleep better.