First, on Wednesday Jan. 17, in the Business section: a column discussing "What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy." The $1.2 trillion in question being, of course, the cost of the war in Iraq--so far, with more expenditures undoubtedly planned. (Actually, as the article explains, direct appropriations have been a mere $700 billion, with indirect costs making up the rest--the author, David Leonhardt, arrives at the $1.2 trillion as "the actual money that Americans would have been able to spend in the absence of a war.") Congress has spent a total of $100 billion on Hurricane Katrina. Even if you account for spectacular amounts of diversion, fraud, and waste (as has been the case ever since August 29), just think what even another $100 billion could do to finally get this recovery moving. There is a snide but apropos bumper sticker making the rounds here: it says, simply enough, "SCREW IRAQ, REBUILD THE GULF COAST."
Second is today's lead Editorial entitled, "Nowhere to Turn for Shelter." In a dead-on analysis, the Times holds the Bush administration to task for the shameful inaction on housing on the Gulf Coast. To quote: "...The response to the drowning of New Orleans has been a failure on every level...There has been no concrete action plan for reconstruction--only a patchwork of programs marked by dithering, bickering and bureaucratic finger-pointing throughout. The federal response was, after great delay, largely to cut a check and let overmatched local officials try to sort it out...The time is long past to turn from planning to action. And those in need of shelter today cannot take comfort in housing that won't be ready for another two years...That New Orleans remains a shattered city is a sad monument to impotence for the most powerful country in the world. Our grand plans were never laid, our brightest minds were never assembled, our nation's muscle and ingenuity were never brought to bear in any concerted way to overcome the crisis of the Gulf." (my italics)
Lastly is a Letter to the Editor also published today, strikingly forceful in its poetic elegance in tying together the above two thoughts. The letter reads, in its entirety:
Sometimes, I go to sleep and dream that I live in another America. One where we sent 140,000 able-bodied men and women, and one trillion dollars--to rebuild New Orleans.