Peter G. Gosselin and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar catch onto something very important, and write:
Limiting Government's Role - Los Angeles Times: Bush favors one-time fixes over boosting existing programs to help Katrina victims: Two days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to issue emergency vouchers aimed at helping poor storm victims find new housing quickly by covering as much as $10,000 of their rent. But the department suddenly backed away from the idea after White House aides met with senior HUD officials. Although emergency vouchers had been successfully used after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the administration focused instead on a plan for government-built trailer parks, an approach that even many Republicans say would concentrate poverty in the very fashion the government has long sought to avoid.
A similar struggle has occurred over how to provide healthcare to storm victims. White House officials are quietly working to derail a proposal by leading Republican and Democratic senators to temporarily expand Medicaid. Instead, the administration is pushing a narrower plan that would not commit the government to covering certain groups of evacuees. As President Bush tackles the monumental task of easing the social problems wrought by Katrina, he is proving deeply reluctant to use some of the big-government tools at his disposal, apparently out of fear of permanently enlarging programs that he opposes or has sought to cut. Instead of depending on long-running programs for such services as housing and healthcare, the president has generally tried to create new, one-shot efforts that the administration apparently hopes will more easily disappear after the crisis passes. That has meant relying on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has run virtually all of the recovery effort....
And Matthew Yglesias comments:
TAPPED: September 2005 Archives: SABOTAGE. The LA Times has a nice report on how the Bush administration is looking at effective ways to help the poor people displaced by Katrina, then rejecting those methods in favor of less effective ones. The reason for deliberately choosing ineffective measures is that the White House fears that implementing effective measures would make it politically easier in the future to get the government to do stuff to help poor people. And the crazy thing about it is that they're not really crazy!
This is the basic dilemma the right faces. It's committed to the view that the government shouldn't help poor people. But things happen from time to time that make it politically imperative to do something to help poor people. And if the government responded to those circumstances in ways that were efficient and effective, that would generate more political momentum for further poor-helping measures. Thus, the right finds itself forced to implement policies it knows to be ineffective. The Section 8 housing vouchers discussed in the article are a case in point. This was an idea that came into vogue with Ronald Reagan as his free-market advisers noted that poor people didn't lack houses (implying a need for the government to build some) but rather money for rent (implying a need for the government to give them some) and that by taking option number two you could avoid the catastrophic poverty-sinks of public housing.
Flash forward to today, and liberals (who care about poor people) have learned to love Section 8. Well-meaning right-wing economists still like them because, well, they're good. But Republicans hate them. Public housing disasters make the case against big government, housing vouchers make the case for... more housing vouchers. The EITC has made a similar ideological journey, beginning on the right as a suggestion that anti-poverty spending could be put to better use and now opposed by the right precisely because the idea is too good. The purely ideological case against helping poor people is grossly unpopular, so conservatives need to rely on the pragmatic case which, in turn, relies on deliberately rejecting good ideas in favor of bad ones in order to "prove" that government programs don't work.
Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.