Louisiana’s Senator Mary Landrieu appeared on Washington Journal’s C-SPAN today (Friday February 3″), and stated that the federal government was spending $ 4 billion dollars each week on its war in Iraq, while ignoring pleas for modest relief funds from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. Her comments came in the wake of a Pentagon announcement that the president’s 2007 budget request to Congress will include $ 439.3 billion for the Department of Defense.
Senator Landrieu also made it a point to remind C-SPAN viewers that the levees on the Mississippi are owned, and theoretically maintained, by the federal government and not by Louisiana. These are the same levees that were allowed to fall into disrepair in spite of repeated warnings by the Army Corps of Engineers. If the federal government was a privately-owned entity, its willful negligence in New Orleans would have brought severe penalties from the courts. Those holding the reins, however, are well aware of the immunity they enjoy.
The Senator is right in the middle of things and she has good reason to complain after hearing about the budget being prepared for Congress by the president. According to the New York Times: “WASHINGTON —The White House will ask Congress for an additional $ 70 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the fiscal year —nearly double some government estimates of what would be needed just a few months ago —and will also seek $ 50 billion more as a down payment for those wars in 2007, administration officials said … “The new war request was announced a day after the House of Representatives cut nearly $ 40 billion from the budget, mostly from social programs, to help fend off rising deficits … “The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that it estimates the 2006 deficit will be at least $ 337 and may reach $ 400billion or higher, depending partly on the cost of the Iraq War … “Meanwhile, the Bush administration also said yesterday it would seek an additional $ 18 billion — to help build the devastated Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “The hurricane relief money would fund a new veteran’s hospital in New Orleans and help small businesses to recover, Reuters reported. Most of the money was expected to be disbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was roundly criticized for its lack luster response to the hurricanes last year. “That announcement sparked immediate criticism. I’am highly concerned that the administration’ s proposal, which lacks details, will put more money into dysfunctional bureaucracies like FEMA and won’t adequately address urgent needs such as housing, levees, and flood protection,’ Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said in a statement.”