The president – widely regarded by Republicans and Democrats alike to have failed the people of the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina– has been touring the area as part of the one-year anniversary. George W. Bush and his allies want you to think they did something right last year and have done more to help since. As the Center for American Progress notes, the reality is quite different:
1,833 lives lost. 270,000 homes destroyed. $55 billion in insured damage. Up to $1.4 billion in American tax dollars wasted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Today, the costs of Hurricane Katrina are still staggering. But even more staggering has been the slow pace of recovery on the Gulf Coast. No one was happy with the federal government's initial response to the hurricane. Eighty percent of the American public think the federal government's response could have been "much better," and in September President Bush stated, "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina." But on the eve of Katrina's one year anniversary, it is clear that the nation is still waiting for the help Bush promised. Yesterday, as part of the White House's "public relations blitz," Bush trumpeted in his weekly radio address that the federal government has "committed $110 billion to the recovery effort." But those billions of dollars have yet "to translate into billions in building." Perhaps most disappointingly, Bush has forgotten about his promise to the nation to confront poverty "with bold action." As Newsweek's Jonathan Alter writes, "The mood in Washington continues to be one of not-so-benign neglect of the problems of the poor." Lessons haven't been learned and time has run out for excuses. (The Progress Report has compiled a comprehensive timeline of the past year's events and American Progress has developed a list of actions America needs to ensure preparedness and recovery capacity for natural disasters.)
Poverty has increased every year that this president has been in office. So has hunger. What happened during Katrina could happen again in any American city.