Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Tip of the Iceberg

In a recent column Paul Krugman asks if the inept response of FEMA to Hurricane Katrina is unique or symbolic of the decline of government agencies across the board under the Bush administration. Unfortunately, for our country it is the norm rather than the exception. In agency after agency the ranks of senior officials have been filled with unqualified political hacks and cronies while experienced professionals have quit in frustration and anger. Here are but a few examples of the decline of key agencies under this administration.

Let’s start with Homeland Security. Since 2004 there has been a steady exodus of counterterrorism officials who believed that the war in Iraq was taking precedence over the real terrorist threat. If you remember Bush’s first choice for the director’s position was Bernard Kerik, a crony of Rudy Giuliani, who would have been appointed if the Press had not turned up serious problems in his background. Somehow the FBI had missed these problems just as it had missed them in Michael Brown’s resume. Brown it turned out had either falsified or greatly exaggerated his qualifications. The creation of the Homeland Security Department was supposed to be the crowning achievement of this administration in reorganizing government agencies to counter the terrorist threat.

Then there is the Treasury Department which is headed by John Snow whose principal qualification seems to be is his loyalty rather than his expertise. Meanwhile, many of the most experienced staff members have left since 2000 and a number of key positions either remain unfilled or filled only on an acting basis. Former senior Treasury officials have complained that that this administration has no economic policy so the best and the brightest have left.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which by the way has a key role in cleaning up the deadly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, has been decimated under Bush. The budget has been cut and key positions in EPA have been occupied by inept political hacks while experienced senior officials have quit in protest over the administration’s refusal to enforce environmental regulations and law. One senior official in an article published in the British newspaper the Independent, has warned of an environmental cover up in progress. Not so far fetched when you consider what happened after 9-11 when the EPA assured New Yorkers that there was no toxic materials from the fall out from the destruction of the Twin Towers only too find out they had been lied to.

Finally, we have the FDA which under Bush has been called a tool for Big Pharma. The agency’s top official in charge of woman’s health issues quit recently over the delay in approving Plan B, the morning after pill accusing the agency’s head of putting politics ahead of science. A panel of top scientists and doctors had overwhelmingly approved the over the counter sale of the pill to the public, but the Bush administration bowed to pressure from the irreligious right who had opposed the pill claiming it was similar to an abortion.

Perhaps it should not surprise one since that this has happened since the administration is riddled with idealogs who want to starve the beast and consider that the role of the Federal Government should be minimal at best. But Katrina should be a wakeup call to all citizens of these United States that the government has responsibility to all citizens rich or poor and there are many areas which the government can and must play a key role.