What is perhaps most shocking about the latest report of Bush Administration malfeasance is how, well, unshocking it is. It fact, it all seems so terribly predictable.
The tally for Hurricane Katrina waste could top $2 billion next year because half of the lucrative government contracts valued at $500,000 or greater for cleanup work are being awarded without little competition.
Federal investigators have already determined the Bush administration squandered $1 billion on fraudulent disaster aid to individuals after the 2005 storm. Now they are shifting their attention to the multimillion dollar contracts to politically connected firms that critics have long said are a prime area for abuse.
In January, investigators will release the first of several audits examining more than $12 billion in Katrina contracts. The charges range from political favoritism to limited opportunities for small and minority-owned firms, which initially got only 1.5 percent of the total work.
“Based on their track record, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw another billion more in waste,” said Clark Kent Ervin, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general from 2003-2004. “I don’t think sufficient progress has been made.”
This is going to get ugly — really ugly. Bush & Co. lived in a protective cocoon for most of the last six years, all but untouchable. In many ways, the federal government resembled an old-fashioned company town, where “the company,” in this case Bush and the GOP, controlled everything, including the police.
That kind of power can easily lead to reckless excess and these guys broke all the records.
This most recent case has the look of a very specific kind of corruption, one grounded in a distorted view of conservative political principles. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these aren’t government haters. They love government; they simply detest efforts to use it to help any but the wealthy and privileged.
So for Bush and his fellow travelers, spending billions of dollars to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, while politically necessary, was in the end just so much hooey. So if they had to throw all that perfectly good money down a black hole of compassion, they might just as well make certain that a good portion of it went to a more worthwhile purpose — enriching their campaign supporters.
Of course, Bush & Co’s graft has hardly been limited to do-gooder programs. They’ve done the exact same thing in Iraq, a government enterprise they wholeheartedly endorse. So, on second thought, perhaps the corruption isn’t tied to their political beliefs at all — maybe they’re just a bunch of crooks.
Either way, they’ve had a hell of a run. But the protective cocoon is gone now. Democrats control Congress and the oversight investigations are gearing up. We seem certain to learn some incredibly damning things about Bush & Co. I wonder if any of it will still have the power to surprise us.
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