A Senate inquiry into the government's Hurricane Katrina failures ripped the Bush administration anew Thursday and urged the scrapping of the nation's disaster response agency. But with a new hurricane season just weeks away, senators conceded that few if any of their proposals could become reality in time.
The senators concluded that only by abolishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, called a "bumbling bureaucracy" — and replacing it with a stronger authority could the government best respond to future catastrophes.
Digby has an interesting take on this, specifically that such governmental failure is, in fact, the Republican objective, because it plays into the Reaganite "government is the problem" perspective. When bureaucratic structures fail, Republicans can stand over the ashes and rubble and proclaim that they were right: government is utterly unable to do anything effectively. Nevermind that in some of these cases (FEMA being one such case), these apparatus worked just fine until the Republicans came into power and sapped their funding, packed their leadership with cronies and sycophants, shoved them deep into the bowels of larger and clumsier bureaucracies, etc.
Though it is true that FEMA and other organizations were corrupted and stultified by Republican mismanagement, I don't know if I'm quite willing to jump off Digby's bridge and say that Republicans actually intended for FEMA to fail (though I do think you could say that about John Bolton's torpedoing of UN reform). Instead, it seems to me merely to be the natural consequence of hiring people to do a job who fundamentally believe that the job can't be done.
Let me explain. Supposedly there is a tactic used in Buddhism to figure out the answer to a problem. They try instead to remember it, because to admit that there may not be an answer is to succumb to the crushing, self-defeating power of despair. In the West, we call it "the power of positive thinking," or "where there's a will, there's a way." People have an uncanny, almost preternatural ability to prove themselves right, so if they engage upon a task that they honestly believe they cannot accomplish, odds are, they won't.
Reaganite Republicans do not believe that the government is capable of working effectively. For them to admit that it can, and often does (even including some of their biggest bogeymen, like Social Security and Medicare), would undermine their entire political philosophy. Is it any surprise, then, that they have been a failure at governing, that nearly everything they've touched in domestic policy, from Medicare Plan D to FEMA and Homeland Security to FDA administration to the budget has been a disaster?
History utterly refutes Collins and Lieberman's conclusions that FEMA is hopelessly broken and doesn't work: it was a smashing success and the crown jewel of American disaster relief agencies less than a decade ago. It's just never worked effectively under Republicans.