Friday, February 03, 2006

When does 85 + 18 = 85?

When you try to pass off $18.5 billion in flood insurance claims payments as rebuilding money.
Donald Powell, the coordinator for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, confirmed that the administration would request $18 billion for that effort.

The money would push the total federal commitment for rebuilding the hurricane ravaged coast to more than $100 billion, according to administration tallies. That reflects about $68 billion in emergency appropriations, $18.5 billion in available flood insurance funds and the latest $18 billion figure.
Well, my tallies are at odds with the administration's tallies:

* September 2, 2005 – Bush signs $10.5 billion disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – Bush signs $51.8 billion disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – Bush signs defense bill which includes $29 billion in hurricane aid, of which $5 billion is new funds and $24 billion diverted from the already authorized $62 billion.

* February 2, 2006 – Bush’s new budget asks for $18 billion more for hurricane aid.

Let us add some rounded figures:

10 + 52 + 5 = 67

That’s $67 billion already headed to the Gulf Coast. Add Bush’s desired $18 billion for 2006 and you can say there is $85 billion planned to go to rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

My tallies: $85 billion. The administration’s tallies: over $100 billion (approximately $103 billion).

What’s the difference? The $18.5 billion Congress has authorized FEMA to borrow so they can pay off insurance claims. The administration includes it. I don’t.

Why do I not include it? Because insurance claims payments are not rebuilding “aid” or “relief” or “assistance.” If you are covered for the loss, it is what you are due. It’s not optional. The federal government must pay the flood insurance claims.

The National Flood Insurance Program didn’t have enough borrowing power to pay the amount of claims after this hurricane season, so Congress did the only thing it could do and raised the NFIP’s borrowing limit. The Senators and Representatives did not do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They had to do it.

Why did they have to do it? FEMA’s Flood Smart website says it all:
You can count on your claim being paid in the event of a flood loss because NFIP flood insurance is backed by the Federal government.
You can count on it. But make sure you count correctly. You can’t say that the government is sending over $100 billion dollars to rebuild the Gulf Coast. What you can say is the government is sending $85 billion and paying $18.5 billion in flood insurance claims.

I wouldn’t be making a big deal out of this if the administration wasn’t holding it over our heads.

Bush (before his latest $18 billion request):
We'll continue to work with the folks down there. But I want to remind the people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot…
Rebuilding czar Donald Powell yesterday:
Powell said he does not anticipate additional money for the region in the 2007 budget Bush planned to announce Monday.


“That’s a lot of money,” he said, referring to the $100 billion.
That’s it for us. They want to wash their hands of the Gulf Coast.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. And, yes, that *is* a lot of money. But, as Polimom points out in a Brookings Institute study, we are going to need a lot more.

The White House wants us to go away. We won’t. We survived Katrina and Rita and we will survive this President. If anything, we will do it for those who didn’t survive.


bayoustjohndavid said...

At least the Administration is smart enough to refer to it as money that the govt. is spending (still a lie). Last night I heard the correspondent on Anderson Cooper refer to it as money that congress has appropriated. Since it is important (the misperception will make getting more aid more difficult) I of course emailed. I think enough emails to the correct media outlets might be more likely to get a correction than all the blogging every single N.O. blogger could do. Of course we should do both, but has anyone else tried writing CNN, or the WAPO or whatever?

bayoustjohndavid said...

That last comment wasn't meant to imply that we're wasting our time blogging. I just wonder whether CNN or the NYT or whatever might examine its coverage of that issue if enough of us wrote.

~ FluxRostrum said...

regardles of the numbers just take a look at how well that money is being spent.
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