New Orleans Needs Katrina Gap Money

56539317New Orleans Road Home, the famously slow to get started mess of a program whose ineptness cost Governor Kathleen Blanco any hope of re-election, now finds yet another pothole in the path of the recovery of the city.  There is $800,000,000 of unspent funds in Road Home and given the national budgetary disaster, the House of Representatives saw the unspent funds as too tempting to protect, and shaved $300,000,000 off for the Gulf British Petroleum disaster, and threw the rest in the pot on the $80 billion dollar effort to fund the Afghanistan war and the rest of what is out there.

A spokeswoman for House Appropriations Chair Congressman David Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, clearly knew none of this history and was simply pulling down a schoolmarm’s admonition to remind someone out there that the money was supposed to be distributed by 2007.  Honey, if you only knew!  This money would have been even better if it had been distributed in 2006 fresh after the storm, but the combination of state and federal (yes, Congressman, federal!) starts and stops on the ways and means to actually doing the distributing let to tragic delays and setbacks from which the City of New Orleans is still reeling.

This is a classic case of blaming the victim, and, even more cynically, punishing the desperate homeowners who are trying to rebuild yet another time.  In fact I’m not sure anyone can even put the real number on how many times some homeowners have been devastated at this point.  Why?  Because according to published reports, this money has been designated for families who were rebuilding but were victimized by corrupt contractors or are having to replace bad Chinese drywall, as well as finally closing on another 14000 odd families still waiting for their first dollar on the Road Home.  One potato, two potato, three potato, four!

Furthermore what kind of sick irony would rob Peter, in this case New Orleans, to pay Paul, in this case our Gulf Coast neighbors and others including many in New Orleans at the mess end of the worst environmental crises perhaps in US history?

The House of Representatives already passed this mess, but it has to go to the Senate.  I wish I could take comfort in Senator Landrieu and Vitter’s ability to carry the day here, but I really can’t.  Landrieu hardly knows how to cut a good deal, and Vitter wants to blame everyone for everything without ever carrying any real weight.

Obama promised to help New Orleans, and we’ve seen none of it in 18 months worth a spit.  Maybe the White House could buy a couple of fewer predators and finally make sure that someone does right by the city.

It’s past time for this as well.

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