Wednesday, August 31, 2005


This has been covered elsewhere in the blogosphere, but it also deserves mention in a public health blog like this one. We have talked frequently about the public health consequences of George Bush's personal choice to take America to war in Iraq, but those effects are often invisible. But sometimes things happen to make them starkly present.

In great natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard is one of the important resources in managing the consequencdes. These citizen-soldiers have as their priority to protect their communities. Last October Louisianna lost a large contingent of their Guard troops, along with heavy equipment, including high water viehicles, refuelers and generators. They are now in the Iraqi desert, not the flooded city of New Orleans and its environs.

The pressure on the federal budget caused by the Iraq debacle coupled with a relentless policy of tax cutting is also having a visible effect. Last June New Orleans City Business reported that the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers suffered the largest single-year budget reduction in its history, $71.2 million. Two months ago:
I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.
If you won't tax those that can afford it but you still want to spend on military adventurism, there isn't enough left for important needs. That's not difficult to understand and it wasn't difficult to understand two months or two years ago. A no brainer. Unless important needs to some are not that important to Bush and his fellow congressional country clubbers.

Iraq. Not having to pay a fair share of taxes. Katrina. Pandemic flu preparedness. Education. Public health. It's all about priorities.