Thursday, September 01, 2005

The End Is Nigh

Conservatism as an ideology is over. That's not just a prediction, that's a promise. I'm just stunned reading all of the horrible stories coming out of New Orleans right now, and we can only hope that things aren't as bad as they might be. But one of the clear indicators coming from all this is that Bush is going to pay, and be remembered in history as the next Nero. Fiddling as New Orleans was destroyed. But it's not just him. It's the entire ideology he represents. Not because they were in power during the disaster. But because they made our government so powerless during it. Not just because of their incompetence, but because that's what conservatives have always wanted, and that's what they stand for. And now we see just one horrible consequence of this dangerous ideology.

Sure, Bush could not have prevented the storm. But there is already too much evidence which shows that he should have done more. And that we could have done more, had we not had a conservative in the Whitehouse, and a Republican Congress. People who oppose government have no business running the government, and this disaster is proof of that. I strongly predict a rising surge of anti-conservatism sweeping the country, and that Republicans will once again be seen as a permanent a minority party for decades to come.

And that is their proper place. Power unchecked is a bad thing, and Republicans will do well as an opposition party. It's their natural inclination, and where their heart really is. They need to act as a proper check to Democrat ambitions, and help keep them honest. Democrats are a poor minority, as too many of them go off and do their own thing. And a minority party just can't do much with a lot of strays. But Republicans are good at picking off strays, and this ability is helpful for taking out Democrat bills which aren't mainstream enough. And that's what we need. People who believe in government trying to make it work, and people who oppose government acting as the opposition. That just makes sense, and that is the balance that we will return to shortly.

I've read lots of these articles today, but here's one from Knight Ridder that stuck out at me (via Kevin Drum). Here are a few of the quotes which, if they become widely known, will help ensure the proper demise of the conservative movement:

Last year, FEMA spent $250,000 to conduct an eight-day hurricane drill for a mock killer storm hitting New Orleans. Some 250 emergency officials attended. Many of the scenarios now playing out, including a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, were discussed in that drill for a fictional storm named Pam.
This year, the group was to design a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of stranded citizens.
Funding for that planning was cut, said Tolbert, the former FEMA disaster response director.

FEMA wasn't alone in cutting hurricane spending in New Orleans and the surrounding area.
Federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana has been chopped from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005, according to budget documents. Federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in the Army Corps of Engineers' budget dropped from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7 million this year. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu requested $27 million this year.

In 2004, the Corps essentially stopped major work on the now-breached levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years, the Times-Picayune reported.
"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay," Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri told the newspaper. "Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

The Army Corps' New Orleans office, facing a $71 million cut, also eliminated funds to pay for a study on how to protect the Crescent City from a Category 5 storm, New Orleans City Business reported in June.

Or there's this quote from a 2004 article in Independent Weekly:
The White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.

And so this isn't just about a slow-footed reaction by a vacationing President; busy playing his guitar while New Orleans was destroyed. And it's not just basic incompetence, though those are both certainly issues. It is the entire conservative ideology which is to blame. They don't believe in government and obviously cannot be trusted to govern it. Because as I've argued before, it's not just that conservatives don't think the government can be successful, it's that they don't think it should be. And they oppose successful government programs more than unsuccessful ones. They don't want people dying, I'm sure. But they'd rather people not be saved by the federal government. Because they just don't like government and want everyone else to hate it too. And people don't hate programs that save them.

Again, this isn't to say that all the conservatives will pack up their bags and go home. But this is yet another nail in the coffin. And a particularly strong nail at that, in that all of the budget cuts above apply directly to this disaster. This isn't just a case of ruining a federal agency, or some other generic cuts. These are direct cuts which could have helped alleviate much of the damage, and it will be almost impossible for conservatives to spin this.

"The first such stoppage in 37 years." To the Bushies, I'm sure this was just another waste project. Taking away precious money needed for Bush's pet war and tax cuts. But to America, this will be a tell-tale of what is wrong with the conservative ideology. Proof positive that the conservatives are wrong. The funds diverted from these projects is peanuts compared with how much it will cost to rebuild New Orleans. And nothing can make up for the loss of life.

It's obvious that the Bushies hadn't prepared for this kind of event. But they never do. They always hope for the best and assume that that's enough. But hope is not enough. And hope is not a strategy. We had a strategy for these things, and the conservatives saw to it that those strategies were dismantled. And they replaced them with tax cuts and contracts for cronies. They chose to wait until tragedy struck, and still waited until it passed. And then Bush got off his vacation and tried to comfort us with too little, too late.

Maybe someday conservatives will learn to appreciate planning and strategies and worst-casscenariosos. And maybe they'll learn that it's best to spend a little more moneup-frontnt, or you'll end up spending a lot more later on. And maybe they'll begin to understand the importance of experts and competence and doing things right. And if that day ever comes, they will be liberals; forever shamed for what they have done.

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