September 6, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v102)

It's Wednesday, again? OK, here comes the wondering.

As thing slowly, oh so very slowly start returning to some semblance of pre-Harvey normal in Texas, the costs to rebuild are simply staggering: $150 to $180 billion, Governor Gregg Abbott has estimated - and that dwarfs the $110B Hurricane Katrina cost. Where does one get $180B in a time of need? That's a great question on which to do some wondering. 

I mean, today a deal was reached in Washington to quickly pass FEMA some $8B - literally chicken feed -- and we had to raise the debt ceiling to do get that done. The agency is spending millions of dollars an hour on Harvey relief; Irma is heading towards Florida, and wild fires are burning in nine states out west. Look at this in the framework of the Trump budget, which has suggested significant cuts to FEMA, as well as to other agencies involved in disasters in some way, shape or form, and we've got a real disaster on our hands if Congress can't figure something out. Are you feeling confident, I wonder?

And speaking of Congress, I wonder how long House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader will be licking their wounds, after president Trump agreed with #ChuckandNancy on that FEMA bankroll and a three month bump for the debt ceiling, instead of the 18 month deal the Rs were looking for, or even the six months they would have settled on.

Here's Jim Newell, writing on Slate.com about the 'deal' Trump made (which included zero negotiation by the dealmaker in chief):
It is, to the letter, the request the Democrats had made and that Ryan and the leadership team had decried as an affront to God immediately after. Trump's move forces congressional Republicans to have to make multiple, painful debt ceiling votes ahead of the midterms and it preserves the Democrats' leverage in the December spending negotiations.
Was it because Trump can't stand a meeting that lasts more than a New York minute? Is it that he finally figured out he's going to need Dems to get anything accomplished, because the Republican leaders have shown they have no control over their own ranks? We may never know, but Trump thinks he made a deal and that's all that matters, I guess.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who has come to terms with the arm-twisting that got him to take a government job after he told us all he didn't want one, was also talking about Harvey, in his usual childlike manner.. In an interview with Rachel Martin on NPR's Morning Edition, Carson told us HUD had people on the ground in Texas, breaking through red tape and trying to help the tens of thousands of families who need help, and figuring out what properties are OK and which need rehab.

Martin asked about the red tape comment and wondered what was different this time compared to Katrina and Sandy and Rita. She asked him for specifics.
Specifically, we sent many agents out into the field with the specific charge of determining how things can be done as opposed to why they can't be done. If you're familiar with bureaucracies, you know that as soon as you come up with a good idea and you're ready to do something, someone says oh, you can't do that because of this. And, you know, I hate that. 
Wonder with me, if you will, what look Rachel Martin had on her face when she heard that answer?
I'm sure she has a fantastic poker face; anyone who does interviews must have one, unless they're a late show host, in which case all bets are off. But that's why they have follow up questions, right?
And so you believe that by putting your agents in the field to just come up with solutions - and then you can just green light them? I mean, there are some real obstacles. there are real reasons that...
Obviously (said Carson), you look at those things. But anybody who's familiar with government bureaucracy knows exactly what I'm talking about.  
Um, OK. Sure, the government moves as fast as molasses in winter, and we all know there are lots of barriers to getting good things done, but those barriers also serve to keep awful things from being done, too.  Especially in the midst of a disaster, where fraud is rampant and every Tom, Dick and Harry with a scam is only a flooded basement or fake charity away.

So where does all of this leave us, this Wednesday?

Let's recap: part of Texas and Louisiana are still under water, and another massive hurricane is threatening Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Parts of the northwest, usually rainy, are bone dry and on fire. Republicans control all three branches of the government and have literally no control over anything.

And the president? Is it any wonder he's left Washington, after the great day he had? Nah. He's off selling his tax plan, his own full basement, if you will, to the folks in North Dakota.

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