Way to Go, Big Government
There's a downright scary cover story in this morning's New York Times by reporter Eric Lipton chronicling the rampant waste and fraud associated with the federal government's abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina last year.
While there will always be sub-humans who attempt to turn a profit by scamming the system in the wake of an unspeakable human tragedy, the now universally-acknowledged federal negligence and inefficiency in responding to the storm of the century is now front-and-center as the driving force behind a $2 billion (and growing) waste rap sheet.
Among the revelations uncovered by the Times:
-$12 million in rental assistance checks that were sent to 1,100 prison inmates
-$8 million spent on recovery-related renovations to an Alabama Air Force Base that cared for a grand total of 10 victims (at a cost of $416,000 per victim)
-$860 million in mobile homes, half of which were never used and now sit vacant at an Arkansas airfield, where FEMA pays $250,000 a month in rent to store them
-11% of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on the disaster recovery is now listed as having been either wastefully or fraudulently spent (the average for major disasters is between 1-3%)
Katrina is the latest case study for those looking to differentiate how government and the private sector respond to a crisis. Simply put, Wal-Mart and dozens of other private sector entities knew more than the government, were better prepared to respond than the government, had better crisis management systems in place than the government and implemented their recovery efforts much faster and much more efficiently than the government.
To put the total waste and fraud figure into some kind of perspective for those of us living here in South Carolina, $2 billion represents nearly a third of our state budget.
Don't get us wrong, the real tragedy isn't that federal waste and inefficiency in responding to Katrina is costing taxpayers $2 billion, it's that federal lethargy and inefficiency cost so many people their lives when the storm tore into the Gulf Coast last summer.
But this kind of blatant mismanagement shouldn't be tolerated, and it should certainly be cause for a reprioritization of our disaster relief spending processes.
Interestingly enough, despite wasting billions on Katrina relief and spending billions more to fight the war in Iraq, the federal government grew by "just" 7% this year. Here in South Carolina, government grew nearly twice that fast - by 13.7%.
Talk about some folks needing to reprioritize ...