Republicans like to make the argument that the states should have all of the power. The feds are bad. They don’t believe in regulation or oversight, because they are part of “big government”. And yet, upon hearing that the state of Louisiana lost track of $700 million dollars of federal money intended for home rehabilitation after Hurricane Katrina, the first thing a Republican Senator does is call for more oversight.
The state of Louisiana acknowledges that hundreds of millions of dollars from the program have not been accounted for, but officials told ABC News they are working to recover the money and pushing homeowners to restore their houses in hopes of minimizing damage from the next round of floods and storms. Since the federal investigation began last year, the state says that it has already tracked down 5,000 more people who have fixed their homes.
“We are working aggressively with HUD to get the remaining 19,000 homeowners in compliance,” said Pat Forbes, who oversees disaster recovery in the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
The money is “unaccounted” for. An estimated $700 million dollars — lost. That’s around 70% of the amount allocated. What are they doing in Louisiana?
The rules were that the state would distribute the money and any homeowners who didn’t use the money to fix their homes within a three year period were to return the money to the state. $940 million dollars were distributed to around 32,000 homeowners. In 2010, a report was done and sent to Louisiana, warning them to recover $3.8 million from non-compliant homeowners. As of August of 2012, $698 million had been dispersed to 24,000 homeowners who were not in full compliance or had failed to document their compliance.
Concerned about the disbursement of the disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy based on this information about Katrina funds, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wrote a letter obtained by ABC News in which he called for more oversight and regulation by the federal government. The Senator asked, among other questions, how the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is ensuring that federally funded state programs are appropriately documenting funds.
In other words, Coburn wants the federal government to oversee the state more. The state can’t handle the responsibility. They can’t be trusted.
Of course, the Housing Department said that there are new “tighter” controls in place now, that were not in place during Hurricane Katrina. What they didn’t say, but what looms large, is that Republicans like to defund all governmental agencies that do oversight and regulation work. Grover Norquist summed up the Republican philosophy, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
We are currently operating under their sequestration, which takes blind aim at cutting government programs with no thought as to what jobs they do or how those jobs will get done. Surely if we want “smarter” government we have to make smarter decisions than that.
Senator Coburn made the argument for government today, showing that he depends on the federal government to oversee state government. Someone has to do it if Governor Bobby Jindal is going to be allowed to continue being “in charge” of Louisiana, because it sure won’t be him. We will see how things go under Governor Christie and the newer controls.
When you hear Republicans complaining about this money, and they will, just ask them who was supposed to oversee the program and why the state can’t do its job since they believe the states should have complete control. The money was given to the state to disburse. Are they incapable of overseeing the money they hand out? If so, why? Who is supposed to pay these overseers, and with what money? If oversight is so needed over the people, why isn’t it needed over corporations and government contractors?
Republicans want to be “free”, but when things go wrong, they want Big Daddy Government to make sure everything is fair. They’re mad that no one is making these people do the right thing.
Perhaps things would go a bit better if more Republicans believed in government at least enough to actually work it, instead of using it to drain taxpayer money for privatization schemes that too often involve fraud. Most modern day Republicans hate government, and that’s just one of the many reasons why they are no good at it. We can’t forget how Bush defunded, downgraded and downsized FEMA with the goal of privatizing much of their work prior to Katrina, his administration calling it “an oversized entitlement program.” They folded it into the Department of Homeland Security. We all know how well that worked out.
Let us also not forget that while Governor Christie used to love the Right’s anti-government rhetoric, when disaster hit his state, he wasn’t foolish enough to live the Republican talking points. He knew he needed to get help for his state, and he got that help with a lot of direct involvement from the President, who also believes in government enough to try to make it actually work.
It is truly a clustermuck to see the results of knee jerk ideology at work. As if that weren’t enough, now we have to listen to Republicans point the finger at the federal government while begging it for oversight to save it from their own ineptness after they’ve defunded it. Yes, government is hardly perfect, but it can and does function reasonably well when operated by competent people whose ideology doesn’t handicap them from doing their job.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.