Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Gasoline on the Fire?

I agree with Josh that giving nearly all of the $50 bil.+ in disaster relief aid to FEMA seems like a truly terrible idea. It certainly goes against most of these "principles of reconstruction," especially #6 and #7.

  1. Don't confuse poverty with stupidity: trust people to make good decisions about how to put their lives back together.

  2. Give people freedom of choice: let them have cash and vouchers for transportation, food, clothing, housing, and then let them make choices about where to go and what to do.

  3. Don't winnow the group of the afflicted down through a complex sorting of who was where, and how damaged, and so forth. Be generous and broad in providing reconstruction aid.

  4. Take the opportunity to design and build the most efficient and secure and environmentally sound transportation, port, oil and gas, business and residential communities in the world. For example, build the best communications network in world to replace the old one -- Bell South allegedly lost 20 switches, which is a staggering number;help this great company rebuild the most efficient modern network in world. For example, deploy a wireless data network across whole region for first responders and also for commercial users.

  5. Have all reconstruction efforts be transparent to the public, doing all planning and contracting on the Net.

  6. Don't confuse reconstruction with emergency relief. Whatever reforms are necessary at DHS, it is clear that DHS should have nothing to do with reconstruction because its mission is to protect the rest of America from the next calamities and to provide emergency relief when necessary.

  7. Don't build a permanent reconstruction bureaucracy. Every reconstruction agency or authority should be managed by real managers, not political appointees, and should go out of business when the work is done.

  8. Set high and explicit goals, and meet them. Don't talk about "years and years": be specific about what is to be done and when.

  9. Involve the affected people and empower them; don't manage from Washington.

  10. Be open and honest in all planning, decisions, and execution.

I'm afraid the reconstruction process will become a mini-Iraq with millions and millions of dollars being basically "looted" from the taxpayers by overcharging contractors. Maybe this is why the eleven Members of Congress voted against the relief package? That would be a good reason, at least. I think more likely their votes were to safeguard a high score on one of those conservative "report cards."

I suppose there's not much we can do about it now, though. The much needed funds are in FEMA's hands. Even more reason to fire that nincompoop, Michael Brown. Now it won't be mainly a symbolic gesture. Getting Brownie out of there will directly benefit the reconstruction efforts. We're waiting, George.

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