Repair and maintenance of the fortress-like system of levees around New Orleans has been a fact of life there for decades. The levees themselves are constantly sinking – in one report they sank four feet in about a year. But in 2003 – at the time President Bush cut the taxes of the wealthy (his “base”) while simultaneously launching the invasion of Iraq for no other reason than his personal whim, funding to rebuild the levees was reallocated:
[After] 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA [Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project] dropped to a trickle. The [Army Corps of Engineeers] never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
As the situation in Iraq devolved into the slow-motion bloodbath we are experiencing today, the Bush Administration needed more money to feed the beast it had unleashed. As a result, even more funding was drained away from repairing the levees around New Orleans:
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.
Last summer, local officials recognized that the president’s decision had placed the city in jeopardy:
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”