There’s an absolutely maddening article up at Salon.com titled No One Can Say They Didn’t See It Coming that documents how the possibility of this disaster occurring was known well in advance and despite this knowledge the Bush Administration cut funding to critical projects that may have helped prevent things from going from bad to worse.
A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans’ levees, but it was too late.
Emphasis mine. Bush’s anti-science stand bears fruit as the administration pretty much made this into a disaster waiting to happen. It gets worse, though, as Bush’s environmental decisions also contributed to the problem:
The Bush administration’s policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised “no net loss” of wetlands, a policy launched by his father’s administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.
In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. “There’s no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection,” said one of the report’s authors. The chairman of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as “highly questionable,” and boasted, “Everybody loves what we’re doing.”
Bet they’re not loving it so much now, eh? Bush touted his administration as making decisions based on science, but his administration has been the most hostile to science of any in recent memory. Anything that contradicted their pro-business world view has been denounced or suppressed by the administration:
“My administration’s climate change policy will be science based,” President Bush declared in June 2001. But in 2002, when the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a study on global warming to the United Nations reflecting its expert research, Bush derided it as “a report put out by a bureaucracy,” and excised the climate change assessment from the agency’s annual report. The next year, when the EPA issued its first comprehensive “Report on the Environment,” stating, “Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment,” the White House simply demanded removal of the line and all similar conclusions. At the G-8 meeting in Scotland this year, Bush successfully stymied any common action on global warming. Scientists, meanwhile, have continued to accumulate impressive data on the rising temperature of the oceans, which has produced more severe hurricanes.
In February 2004, 60 of the nation’s leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement, “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking”: “Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world’s most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy … Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle … The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease.” Bush completely ignored this statement.
It’s enough to make you pull your hair out in frustration. We’ve got a moron leading the most powerful country in the world who thinks he’s comparable to Franklin D. Roosevelt in terms of being a good President (see the rest of the Salon article for that reference). He should be impeached for gross incompetence not only for his actions contributing to the disaster in the gulf coast, but for his rush to war in Iraq on trumped up accusations and a few of his other idiotic decisions. Is it not enough we let him start an unjust war in Iraq that has resulted in too many deaths of both Americans and Iraqis that we have to let him continue to cause countless deaths here as well by ripping all science out of his science-based policies? 2008 can’t get here soon enough.