Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"If people see tax dollars wasted, support will wane." 

Title quote courtesy of Gulf Coast reconstruction czar Donald Powell.

That's an interesting point Powell makes. American support for a project is weakened when tax dollars are wasted. Thus, waste is inimical to our country's goals. Put baldly: Waste begets... weakness.

The terrorist evildoers must chortle ominously when our grand Republic ignores the preventable waste of scores of billions of dollars. They are no doubt-- dare I say it?-- emboldened!

However, people must "see" the waste occurring. Yes, I forgot to include that subtlety from Folksy Don's statement. According to him, the public must see the waste for their support to wane. If they are not aware of it, massive waste could conceivably occur without hindering public support for a national mission.

OK. Let's keep Powell's inpirational nugget in the back of our minds while we review some more information.

The latest CBS poll (.pdf) shows that 59% of respondents favored cutting Iraq war spending to help pay for hurricane recovery. Only 33% disagreed.

Now, that's rather interesting. I don't wish to extrapolate, but those numbers make me want to know whether, at this point in time, the majority of Americans view Katrina reconstruction or Iraq nation-building as the bigger waste of money. Unfortunately, enormous amounts of money are being wasted in both "parts of the world". Perhaps, if current practices persist, the country will give up on both Iraq and the Gulf Coast.

That brings me to a recent article in The Progressive , which makes some connections about expenditures in Iraq and New Orleans:

The Bush Administration seems to be applying the same wasteful, crony-capitalist model in both Iraq and New Orleans.

In Iraq, the Times reports that fuel transportation costs under the no-bid contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root were triple what other companies charged to do the same job. And Kellogg Brown & Root was charging 40 percent more for a gallon of gas than what the military paid when it bypassed the subcontractor and got the fuel for itself.

Still, the Army is paying all but 3.8 percent of the disputed amount of Halliburton's bill. The Times analysis shows just how irregular that decision is. In recent years ,the military has withheld between 56 and 75 percent of payments questioned by auditors.

Could it be that the company's relationship with former Halliburton chief executive Vice President Dick Cheney helped grease the wheels?

As Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, put it: "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."

Forget Dubais Ports International. Americans should be worrying about what the Bush Administration's corporate buddies are doing with their noncompetitive government contracts.


Interfaith Worker Justice points out that the $29 billion in spending Congress OK'd for Katrina relief in December is offset by budget cuts that affect Katrina's victims. Medicaid cutbacks are just one example. Another is, incredibly, $23.4 billion cut from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. And 20 percent of Katrina relief funds are allocated for the military. "This is particularly questionable when no public discussion or planning has occurred about whether military facilities in the Gulf should be rebuilt, and while funding for community development is insufficient," the group reports.

More soon.
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