Why am I not surprised to hear that FEMA paid out millions in hurricane aid it never should have? After all, the stories out of New Orleans that I'm hearing include a FEMA crew of 4 taking all day to build new steps for a trailer that's no longer being used, while insisting that they don't have the personnel to haul it away and give it to one of the many people who still don't have a trailer, which is what the former occupants have asked for. Why new steps? Because OSHA says the old ones aren't sturdy enough.
Duh. It's a trailer.
Then there's the couple that called FEMA to have them pick up a rootball out of their front yard, only to have a wrecking crew show up, ready and eager to knock down their newly renovated house. The neighbors were just able to stop them, but it was a challenge because "They were on the list."
My favorite, though, is this: Getting your roof done takes months. It's not about money, or insurance companies, or red tape, or any of that. It's a simple equation where the work to be done exceeds the capacity to do it. Some friends of Christie's folks waited their turn, sweating out their blue-tarped roof, hoping they'd get it done in time for hurricane season. The roofers finally got to them, and the finished the new roof last week.
The next day, FEMA came and nailed a new blue tarp to it, so now their back in line for roofwork, but it's too hot to do it, and the hurricane season has arrived.
It'd be so easy, hearing these stories, to "blame the government." And I do. But I'm a little more specific about it. FEMA hasn't always been a clusterfuck, and they haven't always been incompetent. But when you put political appointees in charge, and they're folks who've spent their whole policical careers decrying government and claiming that government is incapable of being a force for good.
What surprise, then, that when they take over the government, they proceed to prove themselves right?
Update: Kevin Drum says it better.