Monday, March 20, 2006

Bush once again says a deadly "thank you" to his supporters in Kansas

Last month I reported on how the Bush administration proposed chopping $3 billion out of Kansas’ federal funding over the next five years. Today it’s time to think about what would happen in Kansas if a natural disaster struck. Thanks to the Bushies’ policy of all-war-all-the-time, this reddest of red states could be as bereft of support if a devastating tornado struck as New Orleans was when Hurricane Katrina hit.

This is not a comforting thought, given that we’ve just entered tornado season and have already suffered one severe storm this month.

The Lawrence Journal World reports today: The State May Be Unprepared If Another Disaster Strikes
Years of overseas deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq have left the Kansas National Guard depleted of equipment — some now used in Kansas is borrowed from Nebraska — straining its ability to respond to disasters at home.
I’m not going to pretend that this is a new concern. The depletion of the National Guard’s equipment was widely reported after Hurricane Katrina struck. I also don’t want to alarm anyone.

Both the spokesperson for the National Guard and the governor’s press secretary said that the Kansas Guard can still respond in times of need. But it looks like we’re teetering on the edge. Joy Moser, a spokesperson for the Guard and the Kansas Division of Emergency Management notes:
“We could do it, but we’re at the top of the bottom. We couldn’t go much lower with the amount of equipment we have and still do it.”
The Journal World notes that the administration of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is “clearly concerned.”
The governor wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in December, complaining that the 891st Engineering Battalion — based in southeast Kansas, commanded by Ozawkie state Rep. Lee Tafanelli — had returned from its year in Iraq without a host of heavy equipment, including bucket loaders, road graders, dump trucks, bulldozers and tractor-trailers.

“The Guard was critical to responding to recent blizzards and floods in Kansas, yet its ability to respond to similar situations is being diminished by a lack of equipment,” Sebelius wrote. “We must be able to maintain a high level of readiness, because no one can know when disaster will strike.”
Nationally, The Journal World reports, an estimated $35 billion worth of National Guard equipment has been left in Iraq. The federal budget, however, only asks for a little more than $20 billion over the next six years to replace that equipment. Unless my math is as woefully inadequate as the Bushies' calculations that still puts us $15 billion short of what we need to replace the lost equipment -- and that's over the next six years.
And that, Moser said, will put a strain on home troops the next time they respond to a Kansas disaster.

“We just don’t have the equipment we had,” she said. “We’re not to the point where we can’t perform the mission — I don’t want for one minute for people to think that. But we’d have to be creative.”
As much as I am no fan of our not-so-beloved president, George W. Bush, this problem isn’t just his or, even Donald Rumsfeld’s. The conservative wish to starve the government of money so that it can eventually be “drowned in a bathtub” has been well publicized.

The problem is that conservatives seem to have forgotten that government has some basic duties that should NEVER be ignored. Government’s bottom line has to be the protection of its citizens and the willingness and ability to help them (remember "them" is you and me and your family and friends) in time of disaster.

Hurricane Katrina showed that the Republican administration and the starve-the-government philosophy can’t fulfill this most basic task. If nothing changes in Washington, what will happen next month, next year or the year after that? What happens when the next big tornado hits Kansas?

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