NEW ORLEANS, LA. – Conservative policies turned the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina into a year-long tragedy for the Gulf Coast and the nation, according to a new report released today by the Campaign for America’s Future. House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn, D-S.C., endorsed the report’s findings from New Orleans, La., on a news conference call conducted today by the Campaign for America’s Future.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined Rep. Clyburn on today’s call with Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage and ACORN New Orleans lead organizer Stephen Bradberry.
The Campaign for America’s Future report finds that the federal government’s failure to prepare, respond and rebuild stems from conservative policies which shrunk indispensable government services, promoted cronyism over professionalism, outsourced government responsibility to the private sector and backed pay-to-play politics.
“We do know that Hurricane Katrina, one of the greatest natural disasters in American history, became a catastrophe because of the systematic failure of a conservative government,” says the report, co-authored by Borosage.
The teleconference participants pointed to an array of troubling indicators from the region indicating the failure of the federal government’s response: 350,000 people have yet to return to the New Orleans metro area, and only 56 of 128 public schools in New Orleans are enrolling students this fall.
Rep. Waters said she flew down and met with New Orleans residents trapped in the convention center in the days immediately following the hurricane.
“The Bush administration has bungled the federal response to Hurricane Katrina,” said Rep. Waters. “Over $110 billion dollars has been set aside by Congress for assistance and reconstruction in the region, but less than half has actually been spent. Much of the money that has been spent has gone to out of state contractors, without competitive bidding. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of families who want to rebuild and recover are still waiting for their federal money one year later.”
Rep. Clyburn, chairman of the Democratic Caucus, who is currently visiting the Gulf Coast with 25 members of Congress, reported from the region that recovery is lagging behind expectations.
“The Bush administration has made a lot of promises and failed to follow through. The people of Louisiana and Mississippi have waited long enough for the help they need to rebuild and recover,” said Rep. Clyburn. “Democrats want to lead the Gulf Coast in a new direction by working to improve housing, health care, education and other vital needs.”
As President Bush struggles to stave off criticism for the administration’s failed emergency response, he marked the one year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall with a major policy address today in New Orleans – where he made his first appearance four days after the storm ravaged the city last year.
As President Bush jokingly reassured Mayor Tommy Longo of Waveland, Miss. that “the check is in the mail,” during his address in Biloxi yesterday, tens of thousands of people in the Gulf region wait desperately for federal relief funds for homeowners that just began to trickle in a few weeks ago.
A new report released by Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on today’s call shows that community organizations have had to step in and provide relief in the absence of federal action.
“The decisions have come down to a choice between humanity versus market share, and unfortunately the present administration has chosen to go with market share at the cost of homes and lives,” said Stephen Bradberry, ACORN lead organizer in New Orleans.
This morning ACORN filed suit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency in federal district court in the District of Columbia for failing to adequately explain to hurricane evacuees why their housing benefits are being terminated.
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**NOTE: The report, “Hurricane Katrina: Natural Disaster, Human Catastrophe” is available at http://home.ourfuture.org/reports/stl_confailure_katrina.pdf.**