Thursday, September 08, 2005

Congressional Douchebaggery

This afternoon, the United States House of Representatives took action and voted a $51.8 billion aid package for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This bi-partisan move was spoiled by just one thing.

The eleven Republican congressmen and congresswomen who voted against it.

We admit it, we are stunned, if not speechless. How could any representative of the people choose to vote against aid to the people who have lost their homes, their jobs, most if not all of their earthly possessions, and in more than a few cases, their loved ones as well?

It's beyond us.

Here's the walk of shame.
  • Joe Barton, Texas;

  • Jeff Flake, Arizona;

  • Virginia Foxx, North Carolina;

  • Scott Garrett, New Jersey;

  • John Hostettler, Indiana;

  • Steve King, Iowa;

  • Butch Otter, Idaho;

  • Ron Paul, Texas;

  • James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin;

  • Tom Tancredo, Colorado;

  • Lynn Westmoreland, Georgia.
Pay close attention to that last one, because there's your local angle. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA). And since he's from Georgia, and we're from Georgia, we're going to take our anger out on him. So, here's a few juicy selections from his rationalization as to why he chose to screw over the Katrina victims.

I do not oppose all funding for the emergency, but one of my major concerns with the government response to disasters in general is the tendency to throw money at problems with very little accountability on how that money is being spent."

Later on, he says,

"According to the Office of Management and Budget, we are spending money at a rate of $2 billion a day, and yet we in the Congress do not have many details at all on how that money is being spent."

And continues,

"The funding is only for immediate response over and above the $10 billion we are already spending. This legislation holds no one responsible, and I cannot in good conscience allow such a tremendous amount of taxpayer’s money to be spent without holding someone accountable for its disbursement. The legislation does provide for the inspector general to oversee the funding, but even that is after-the-fact as the money is being spent."

So, to sum up. Hurricane relief is important, but double-entry book-keeping is more important. Just remember, Congressman Douchebucket, that if you had your way, people would die while waiting for you to cross the t's and dot the i's.

By the way, you can email Congressman Douchebucket right here (it's his campaign email address, because he does his congressional email through writegov). And we humbly suggest you do. And when you email him, ask him for us how many times he voted against or even questioned the billions of dollars that the GOP-led Congress has funneled in Iraq.

Tips, rumors, gossip.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Sorry to say it but I do see some merit in his rationale. It's not like no money has already gone to them. It has. And lots of organizations are helping. I know it is not enough but it is a start. When spending other people's (taxpayers) money, you MUST have accountability - especially with this administration. So often one man's disaster is another man's opportunity to steal.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for helping the victims of this disaster, I just want to be sure they are the ones helped and not the people spreading the money around. Organizations that are helping, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, have a system in place to account for the money donated to them. Why would we expect any less from the government? Especially this government? And how long would it take to put someone in charge? To set up a simple system to track the money spent?

I don't think that this position is anything but honest and responsible.

Publius said...

because people need help now, not when some government bureaucrat gets around to filling out a from in triplicate.
Government, by its very nature, is inefficient, and fairly slow-moving. Most of the time, that's ok. Who cares if we bid out the new stealth bomber for another few months.
But when government has to act quickly, it has to act quickly.
To assume that the government agencies in place don't already have bookkeeping mechanisms in place is just ridiculous. In fact, the bill that Westmoreland voted against gives the government oversight over how the money is spent, however Westmoreland doesn't like this because it occurs "after-the-fact".
Unfortunately, after the fact is about the best we can do. Not to be too grim here, but in a lot of respects, we don't know how much is going to be spent on what. Right now, we do not even know how many bodies there are to recover.
But bureaucratic stonewalling just to score some cheap political points for being fiscally conservative is beyond low.

Anonymous said...

I could not disagree with you more!

What good is tracking money AFTER it is spent? More of the usual government it and then when you get caught blame everyone else. And let me reiterate I AM ALL FOR HELPING THE VICTIMS and I do not believe that requiring accountability will slow down the process. And what is this about the government being slow to do things? Yes, I agree they are, but we should REQUIRE that that not be the case in times like these. I do not think that we can build our expectations for our government on what they have always done. We need to REQUIRE them to be able to do things that are urgent in a quick but efficient way.

I am still strongly opposed to just giving some government official money and then saying 'oh, by the way, how did you spend it?'

Publius said...

"we should REQUIRE that that not be the case"

"We need to REQUIRE them to be able to do things that are urgent in a quick but efficient way"

Can we also REQUIRE them to bring back the dead, or go back in time to strengthen the levees? Because you have about as good a chance of seeing it happen.
You can require government to do stuff until you're blue in the face, but I stick with what I said before. Representative government, democracy, is by it's nature inefficient. It's still the best system around, in my book, but left to its own devices, it's going to be slow-moving. You want a government that's quick to act, check with Stalin. Authoritarianism is usually pretty efficient.
So when people try to streamline the process and get folks the help they need, people come in bitching and moaning about not having enough accountability?
I don't understand people like Lynn Westmoreland. There's a simple and clear trade off here. For every extra layer of bureaucracy you add (and at this point, requiring excessive levels of accountability before the fact is equivalent to adding bureaucracy) means longer waits for food, water, evacuation, etc.
You can't simultaneously want to require the government to act swiftly and then want to hamper their ability to do so.
I believe in accountability, and if this were an aid package being authorized at a time when there weren't still bodies floating in the streets, then I'd probably agree with Westmoreland. I know that you can't trust the US Federal Government (brought to you by halliburton) to spend money the right way. But at this time, at this place, money is needed to treat the sick and injured, to recover the dead, to keep the pumps running. We can navel gaze later. Now is the time to act.
The final point is the sheer hypocrisy of Westmoreland and his ten GOP compatriots, who never met an Iraq spending bill they didn't like (except Ron Paul, who is the only genuine deficit hawk in the GOP).

Anonymous said...

House Republicans insist on emergency-spending oversight
The emergency spending bill to fund cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina sets aside $15 million in oversight so the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can monitor how that money is spent. The set aside was a last-minute addition after Republican House members asked Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten to include an oversight board in the spending bill during a Wednesday night conference meeting. Members were concerned that some of the $51.8 billion supplemental spending bill would be misappropriated if no officer was charged with its oversight. The $15 million will go directly to the Inspector General of DHS, according to a letter sent by Bolten to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) "…This Congress is serious about doing everything we can to help local, state and federal officials respond to this crisis," Hastert said in a statement after the bill passed the House floor Thursday evening. "Coupled with last week's $10.5 billion relief bill, we have now provided more than $62 billion in Hurricane Katrina assistance. We want to ensure that this money intended for relief is not misspent, so we have included $15 million for audits that will safeguard spending and watch for misuse."

Anonymous said...

Well, now you are just getting snippy. No we can't require the government to bring back the dead. I think you are misunderstanding what I am trying to say. I know that some money has to be spent immediately, given that nothing was set into place prior to this disaster, but that's a different problem. We did that and I have no problem with it. And I think that $15 million to track the billions is absolutely out of line.

I guess I have been around too long and seen too much opportunistic behavior. Just as some contractors will increase prices in destroyed areas, some government officials will pour relief money into government organizations that spend $5.00 for a box of tissue because they buy it from the official's brother's store. And I think that this government is especially prone to misuse of monies and I would like to see that as minimized as possible. Not at the expense of the victims but if what I expect is true, they are not getting the benefit of the money anyway.

Publius said...

My point being that it's very easy to say we should require the government to do something. But actually getting them to execute is another thing entirely.
We did spend money immediately, and that money is running, or has run, out. Unfortunately, the need is no less urgent. There's still the costs to be considered of feeding, clothing, and housing the evacuees, as well as paying those National Guardsmen (of whom there are not enough even now), and the sundry other expenses that an immediate humanitarian response requires.
Further down the road, when the focus of aid money is to rebuild, repair, and restore the city, and when we are talking about the well-being of buildings and not of people, then we must demand the strictest scrutiny and accountability.
But, from at least some accounts, the humanitarian response was delayed by bureaucratic infighting between DHS, FEMA, and other agencies. Stupid, petty little turf wars, compounded by government agencies who refused to accept the awful facts.
Should we continue to let the bureaucratic masses control who gets what, after they finish fighting their turf wars? Or should we embrace a progressive ideology that says "People before process?"
For progressives, the people should always come first. After our immediate and urgent duties to the citizens of the Gulf Coast are done, after every evacuee has a roof over their head, food in their belly, and a warm, safe place to sleep, then, let the accoutants take over.
Remove, at that time, the Inspector General from the picture. Have the oversight over the spending supervised by independent auditors, with subpoena powers granted by Congressional mandate, and revocable only by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress. Let them, yes, after the fact, investigate and ferret out any and all people and agencies who have misappropriated funds, and let them hold those people and agencies accountable to the fullest extent that the law allows.
You're right, and please don't assume any naivete that doesn't exist here. Government contractors will waste money, they will "lose" money, in some cases, they will flat out steal money. And yes, somebody's brother-in-law's store may do really good business. But, after the people affected by this disaster are taken care of, let them be held accountable for every penny they misused.
We don't have time for that now. Any oversight that could be created would be held together with chewing gum and prayer anyway. Any oversight created now would be conducted by the very government that you distrust and have railed against (as has any decent American, regardless of ideology). Let's not leave the fox to guard the henhouse.
We don't have time.

Publius said...

Request permission to revise and extend my remarks.

In my last post, I said, "But, after the people affected by this disaster are taken care of, let them be held accountable for every penny they misused."

In the interests of clarity, I meant to say, "...let the folks who commit such fraud be held accountable..."

Just to clarify.

Anonymous said...

I can live with that. It gets the accountability in place and I don't want even one victim to suffer because of paperwork.

But to prepare for next time something this big goes wrong could we go ahead and set up a system, not manned but in place to be manned, to handle accountability? I don't mean every bottle of water, every MRE. I mean 6 million bottles of water at what price each bought from whom by whom.

I am basically just tired of government taking everything they can from everyone. We will never get better behavior from government officials unless we REQUIRE it. Let's just hope we get some good candidates to replace these.

Publius said...

Not to be overly snarky, but perhaps in addition to having an accountability system in place, we could try something crazy like, oh I don't know, having a disaster management plan in place?

RandomThoughts said...

well, if you want to deal in miracles......