Friday, May 12, 2006

Make It Go Away

$85 billion is back, on no less:
In the months since the Aug. 29 storm, the government has appropriated some $85 billion for Katrina rebuilding, and the Senate last week approved an additional $28 billion. Of the $85 billion, agencies have awarded about 6,665 contracts worth $9.7 billion.
This passage came from an Associated Press article that was reprinted all over the country. But and the Times-Picayune should know better. They have refuted this number themselves.

None of the reprinted versions I have seen have explained the entire breakdown and how the “appropriated” money for “rebuilding” includes money to be used to pay flood insurance claims.

Another curious point: $85 billion is an old number. As of today, $67 billion (sometimes rounded up to $68 billion) in non-insurance related money has been approved by Congress. Before March 2006, the National Flood Insurance Program was authorized by Congress to borrow up to $18.5 billion to pay flood claims. $67 billion + $18 billion (rounded numbers) gave the often spun number of $85 billion.

In March, though, the NFIP borrowing limit was raised to $20.8 billion. So, the correctly spun number should be $88 billion ($67 billion + $21 billion).

Could it be that the A.P. doesn’t understand the origin of the number they are using to such a degree that they are actually using the incorrectly spun total? Either that or my math is wrong. The Washington Post and (to a lesser extent) the Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding agree with my numbers.

Thank you again, national media, for making the world think we are getting way more than we really are while we are actually getting less than what we really need.

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