Did FEMA Help Katrina Victims Too Quickly? By Cassandra
After months of accusations FEMA wasn’t helping Katrina victims quickly enough, CNN is horrified to learn the federal government may have cut through too much of that bothersome red tape:
In its rush to provide Katrina disaster aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasted millions of dollars and overpaid for hotel rooms, including $438-a-day lodging in New York City, government investigators said Monday.
The two audits found that up to 900,000 of the 2.5 million applicants who received aid under FEMA’s emergency cash assistance program — which included the $2,000 debit cards given to evacuees — were based on duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers, or false addresses and names.
Separately, the Justice Department said Monday that federal prosecutors have filed fraud, theft and other charges against 212 people accused of scams related to Gulf Coast hurricanes. Forty people have pleaded guilty so far, the latest report by the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force said. Many defendants were accused of trying to obtain emergency aid, typically a $2,000 debit card, issued to hurricane victims by FEMA and the American Red Cross.
Let me get this straight: first FEMA wasn’t eliminating red tape fast enough to get critically-needed relief to desperate Katrina victims.
Then, when FEMA does streamline relief efforts, CNN excoriates them for not being more suspicious of ‘helpless victims’ the news network just recently called, “so poor and so black”?
And in all of this, not one word of blame for the 900,00 folks who intentionally defrauded the United States government (that’s almost one-third of the total number of relief recipients for those of you who, like Richard Cohen, find a knowledge of mathematics superfluous when pontificating about the issues of the day).
The Washington Post, at least, assigns some of the blame where it belongs: on the hysterical clamor for FEMA to “do something…anything”. Now we know what happens when we institute stop-gap solutions.
Hawkins note: There’s an old saying judges like to toss around that goes like so: “Hard cases make bad law”. The basic meaning of that is that judges will sometimes bend the law to help someone who they feel the sorry for in a particular case and in so doing create a harmful precedent.
Same deal with Katrina.
We’ve gone (and are still going) so staggeringly, ridiculously overboard in helping people after Katrina, simply because it was a hot potato political issue, that the “new standard” that has been set will literally end up costing us hundreds of billions of dollars in extra spending on future disasters.
That is a mistake that we may still be paying for decades from now.