Federal Agencies

Health Reform: Feeling Better Already

“. . . what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.” —Senator Edward M. Kennedy to President Obama “We will go through the gate. If the gate is...

Democrats, Be Bold. Do Not Freak Out.

Stand up straight. No cringing, no cowering. The loss of the Massachusetts senate seat is dismaying but unfortunately not surprising. What worries us is that Democrats will learn the wrong lessons from the loss—they have a way of doing that. Some have said “we should...

Fugate Confirmed for FEMA: Help Is on the Way.

It is very good news that the Senate voted last week to confirm W. Craig Fugate as administrator of FEMA. Fugate knows what he is doing. He will be the “anti-Brownie”—every bit as in command as Michael Brown and other Bushies were not. Having directed Florida’s Division of Emergency Management since 2001 (Florida is the most hurricane-prone state), Fugate is by far the best-prepared administrator FEMA will ever have had—even better than the highly respected James Lee Witt who under President Clinton did so much to restore pride and confidence in that long-neglected agency. (See “Fugate for FEMA” [3/17] below, and read Cooper and Block’s Disaster for the sad procession of political appointees who have headed FEMA since its inception in the late 1970s.) When candidate Obama said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he may have been referring to Mr. Fugate. A thousand welcomes, sir. Can we get you a cup of coffee?

More Praise for Craig Fugate as FEMA Director-Nominee

We’re tracking the Fugate nomination and hearings process—not scheduled yet—and we’ll keep you posted. In other good news, reported by Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune, President Obama has nominated Jo-Ellen Darcy, a senior Senate adviser on environmental and water projects, to oversee the Army Corps of Engineers. (Garret Graves of Gov. Jindal’s Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration praises Darcy as “tough as nails and a solid choice.”) In the meantime, about Fugate . . .

Fugate for FEMA: “Semper Gumby”—In an Emergency, “The Calmest Man in the Room”

Some of our readers are too young to remember a time when the much-derided FEMA actually functioned well. That would be 1993 to 2001: Under President Clinton, former Arkansas emergency services director James Lee Witt directed FEMA with direct, cabinet-level access to the president and earned wide, bipartisan respect for his competence and flexibility.

Happy days—or at least competent days—are soon to be here again. President Obama has nominated W. Craig Fugate, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, to be the next head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is good news indeed.

“American-Made”: A WPA History for Our Time
(“Yes We Can” Do It Again)

Levees Not War has been recommending a Civilian Conservation Corps for Louisiana coastal restoration for some time now, and here is more encouragement in that direction.

From his first days in office, Franklin Roosevelt worked to establish relief programs to ease the pain of 25% unemployment nationwide, with some 15 million men, or 60 million Americans, having no income whatsoever. But it was not until his third year in office that Roosevelt launched the WPA, the famous jobs and public works program that is one of the hallmarks of the New Deal.

Jindal: From Rising Star to Black Hole

While “disastrous” was among the more charitable descriptions of Bobby Jindal’s performance Tuesday night, we would like to thank him for mounting so ineffectual a response to President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress. (The joke in the White House press room is that Jindal has gone from being a rising star to a black hole.) We take no pleasure in the derision—laughter at a governor who has made a fool of himself on national television only makes our state look bad—but we’re glad that he put up no serious resistance to the persuasiveness of Obama’s progressive agenda. Jindal has done us the favor of leaving his party even more leaderless and dispirited. His faux-optimistic speech, titled “Americans Can Do Anything,” was clearly written before the G.O.P. knew what Obama would say; they were expecting a gloomy assessment of the economy without an equal measure of confidence that the nation can rebuild and come back stronger than before.

Grinch Wins Plastic Turkey Award: Pentagon Demands Repayment of Disabled Vets’ Signing Bonuses

Pittsburgh’s KDKA reports that the Defense Department is demanding that thousands of disabled U.S. soldiers return parts of their signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments. They had to go and get blown up so bad the army couldn’t patch them up well enough to push ’em back out on the streets of Baghdad as they do with other wounded soldiers. It is well known that the army has had to resort to signing bonuses of up to $30,000 to attract new soldiers to an increasingly unpopular war (though the army continues to fall short of its recruiting goals).

Omigod! Operation Iraqi Freedom Isn’t Free!

As we reported in “Let the Eagle Soar” below, the Congressional Budget Office released a report Oct. 24 estimating that the total expenditures for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost over $2.4 trillion over the next ten years—or $8,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. We hear often enough that “freedom isn’t free,” but we’re not sure we’re getting our money’s worth—especially when so many important priorities are neglected here at home.

Lessons Learned: FEMA Staff Ask the Questions at FEMA “Press Briefing”

Deputy administrator Vice Admiral Harvey E. Johnson praised his “very smoothly, very efficiently performing team.” (For the sake of the Californians, we hope he’s right.) “And so I think what you’re seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership, none of which were present in Katrina.” (Thanks for reminding us.)

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