Hurricane Sandy Pork Bill part II

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In part one of our Hurricane Sandy Pork Bill we left off at the $44 million allocation for NOAA airplane repairs. I doubt any of the victims of Sandy give a rats .. well.. you know ..about the hurricane airplanes.

So if it doesn’t help the recovery effort, then why is it in the bill at all? Its simple…its pork.

A million here and a million there we get to The Dept of Defense. They get $88.3 million for repairs as the result of Sandy (beginning Chapter 3 pg.11)

Gotta love some of the wording in the legislation – “for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy:”

What exactly are ‘necessary expenses’ and who determines that?

Now we get to the meat of the issue; The Corps of Engineers.

They want $5.35 Billion for Sandy repairs. There’s not much point in arguing the merits, or lack there of, of all of the expenditures here, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

1. $50 Million to “For an additional amount for ‘‘Investigations’’ to expedite studies of flood and storm damage reduction related natural disasters,”

Now boys and girls $50 million for studies is laughable. If you have a mental picture of a family with no house, no car, etc, please tell me how you can rationalize a $50 million expenditure for ‘studies’?

Once again I ask – How did you arrive at that number, and who did it?

There is even a stipulation: “Provided, That using $29,500,000 of the funds provided herein, the Secretary shall expedite and complete ongoing flood and storm damage reduction studies in areas that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy in the North Atlantic Division of the U.S.

So $29.5 Million is earmarked for flood and storm damage reduction studies. With the treasure trove of studies already conducted and paid for relating to storm and flood damage across the country how could we possibly need more studies?

$50 Million for studies sounds like paybacks to institutions for their support of certain candidates – prove me wrong!

This bill places FEMA under the umbrella of the Dept of Homeland Security, why I have no idea, but we find 3 bullet points in the summary sheet one of which we will take a closer look at.

“An increase of $9.7 billion in National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) borrowing authority (FEMA is expected to exhaust current borrowing authority by January 7, 2013)”

Here is a perfect example of a government run insurance company and a couple of fun facts:

1. You have to buy flood insurance from the government.

2. NFIP collects total annual premiums of $1.8 billion (entire U.S.).

3. NFIP holds $527 Billion worth of insured properties (entire U.S.).

4. The payout for Katrina alone was $16 Billion.

5. “The second largest fiscal liability of the U.S. government, behind social security, is the National Flood Insurance Program.”

And they are already broke. That’s what the $9.7 Billion is for and what the House will vote on; they have no money to pay out.

There is a long list of other pork projects included in this bill.

Even if half of this money was legitimately needed, there should be scrutiny and accountability to go along with it, but there won’t be.

Katrina was a perfect example; before the hurricane devastated New Orleans the Federal government allocated funding to sure-up the levy system around New Orleans, the money was re-directed by the state and local officials to repair locks and other projects.

Katrina came, the levies failed, the rest is history.

In a rush to help money was given away to victims by the truck load, very soon it was discovered the “victims” were living better than ever, with more money than ever, and fraud was the name of the game.

Years later, those who received money they were not entitled to were given a free-pass by President Obama – If you made less than $90,000 a year just keep the money.

Why would we expect anything different this time around?

Pork packing a bill is nothing less than a sign of laziness on the part of our Legislators. Instead of doing the work and individually addressing legislation as it should be, they take the lazy way out.

Let’s start with $20 Billion that will cover the funds needed by NFIP, the requested monies by the Corps of Engineers, the emergency repairs, with funds left over.

bureaucratsThen force the legislators to do their jobs – with full accountability.

Hurricane Sandy Pork Bill

When you consider the enormity of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy its apparent the cost of restoration will be large and you want to help those whose lives were basically turned upside down, physically and financially.

We also expect our government to assist physically and financially, that is one reason we pay taxes (some of us anyway) so those in need have the resources necessary when a disaster strikes.

We want those funds available and a plan in place to put those funds to work without delay. What we don’t want is to rush to spend, wasting those funds. But waste is exactly what is going on with the relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims.

You would have thought that we gained some insight in how to plan, manage, dispense, and account for the funds spent for disaster recovery given the history of such events, but alas it seems we have learned little if anything and the Hurricane Sandy relief bill is an example of that failure.

The bill itself, while well meaning, is criminal since so many expenditures listed are not related to Hurricane Sandy at all. Criminal in the sense that those people and areas so desperate for financial help will be deprived because of the waste packed in this bill.

An examination of this bill reveals allocations that are unnecessary, many which could be postponed, and some border on ridiculous.

Looking at some of these allocations, which are grouped according to department, you don’t have to read very long before you begin to question the allocation of funds.

First section – Agriculture Department;

‘‘Emergency Forest Restoration Program’’ (pg2 line 17) – $58,855,000, to remain available until expended, of which $49,010,000 is for expenses resulting from a major disaster.

And just what is the EFRP? EFRP provides payments to eligible owners of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) land to carry out emergency measures to restore land damaged by a natural disaster.

Really? $49 Million for private forest land restoration? I’m sure there are tree farmers and tree huggers who would argue the legitimacy of this funding but the timing couldn’t be worse.

Isn’t this something that could wait to be addressed at a later time or couldn’t this funding be put to better use in the wake of Sandy? On a comparative note; $15 million allocated for food yet $49 million for trees on private land?

Next up; ‘‘Emergency Watershed Protection Program’’ (pg3 line 6), –$125,055,000, to remain available until expended, of which $77,085,000 is for expenses resulting from a major disaster.

The EWPP is defined as a department to help communities address emergency watershed impairments that pose imminent threats to lives and property either through erosion or natural disaster.

Two things to bear in mind are one; the work this agency does is temporary in nature and two; they operate under the Department of Agriculture. Why not under the Army corps of engineers? They are the ones who are going to be involved in the permanent projects of this nature so why not be efficient and get them on the same game plan?

You will see later in the bill the Corps of Engineers funding is $5.3 billion, so why the $125 million for temporary measures?

Next up; NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION OPERATIONS, RESEARCH, AND FACILITIES – $482 Million

This whole expenditure deserves severe scrutiny, but I want to focus on just 3 points.

1. $150,000,000, for necessary expenses related to fishery disasters as declared by the Secretary of Commerce in calendar year 2012:(pg. 5 line 14) Here is an attempt to address the entire loss for all fishery disasters for 2012.

You would be hard pressed to convince me there was $150 Million worth of uninsured fishery losses in 2012 much less related to Hurricane Sandy. Here is one of those expenditures which could be cut to realistic levels and/or addressed at a later time.

2. $197,000,000 to evaluate, stabilize and restore coastal ecosystems affected by Hurricane Sandy ;( pg.5 line 6). First isn’t that what the EWPP is supposed to do?

Secondly, how in the world do you arrive at that figure? Did someone just fly over the affected area and guess? If you consider the governments past spending habits it will probably wind up at three times that amount so why not get a handle on this before the money is spent.

There is a major departmental overlap as well, when you consider that  $47 Million of that is destined for “the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program to support State and local restoration in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy;” (pg. 6 line 5).

I think some very detailed investigation needs to go into this before any checks are written.

3. $44,500,000 for repairs and upgrades to NOAA hurricane reconnaissance aircraft ;(pg. 6 line 12). Here is another expenditure while may be needed, surely it is not needed at this time and should be addressed at a later time when the disaster caused by Sandy is under control.

Why is it we have legislators that rush to spend? Is it because they are so concerned about their public image they are afraid to take the time to do the right thing instead of just the immediate thing?

Is it because they are to lazy to do the work required to find out what is needed (exactly) and how much is needed to repair the damage?

Why do they feel compelled to pack a bill with items not directly related to a bills original purpose?

Maybe if it was their money and not our money a little more scrutiny would be employed?

This relief bill needs a closer look.