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Precipitating Disasters: A Timeline

BY David Sirota
27 February 2001

President Bush proposes a $641 million cut to the Army Corps of Engineers, including a proposal to provide only half of what administration officials said was necessary to sustain the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project.

9–13 April 2001

At the National Hurricane Conference, Bush FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh tells emergency officials that a major hurricane hitting New Orleans is among the three most likely disasters facing America.

26 April 2001

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) writes an op-ed saying that “lives very likely will be lost” if budget cuts to flood infrastructure projects move forward.

7 June 2001

Bush signs his massive $1.3 trillion income tax cut into law.

20 June 2001

The Times-Picayune reports that “despite warnings that it could slow emergency response to future flood and hurricane victims, House Republicans stripped $389 million in disaster relief money from the budget.”

4 February 2002

President Bush proposes a $390 million cut to the Army Corps. The cuts come during the same year the richest 5 percent (those who make an average of $300,000 or more) are slated to receive $24 billion in tax cuts.

26–27 February 2002

President Bush’s Army Corps of Engineers Chief Mike Parker testifies before House and Senate committees that “there will be a negative impact” if the White House’s cuts to infrastructure projects are accepted by Congress.

7 March 2002

Mike Parker is fired.

9 March 2002

President Bush signs a $43 billion package of business tax breaks, reducing total corporate tax collections by 21 percent.

26 September 2002

Tropical Storm Isidore pushes waters to within inches of topping aging levees protecting New Orleans.

9 October 2002

Politicians and emergency planners from 10 Louisiana parishes press the Army Corps of Engineers for emergency funding for critical levee improvements.

7 January 2003

President Bush outlines a new $600 billion tax cut proposal centered around a plan to eliminate taxes on stock dividends.

3 February 2003

President Bush proposes another half billion cut to the Army Corps of Engineers, including slicing about two-thirds of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project’s budget.

28 May 2003

President Bush signs his tax cut into law. Though the overall package has been pared back, the dividend tax break alone costs $125 billion.

30 May 2003

The Times-Picayune reports that Bush administration officials announced “they don’t have enough cash to pay for major drainage and hurricane protection projects under way in at least five local parishes” in the New Orleans area.

20 January 2004

In his State of the Union address, President Bush announces a plan to make his previous tax cuts permanent. The plan would cost more than $1 trillion.

2 February 2004

President Bush proposes a $460 million cut to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps says it needs $27 million to upgrade hurricane protection around Lake Pontchartrain, but Bush proposes just $3.9 million for the project.

8 June 2004

The Times-Picayune reports that “for the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area’s east bank hurricane levees.”

17 june 2004

The U.S. House of Representatives passes a $155 billion White House-backed bill to cut corporate taxes.

September 2004

Hurricane Ivan almost hits New Orleans. Knight Ridder newspapers report that Ivan was a very real reminder that “a direct hit by a very powerful hurricane could swamp [the region’s] levees and leave as much as 20 feet of chemical-laden, snake-infested water” in its wake.

22 October 2004

President Bush signs the new corporate tax cut into law.

7 February 2005

President Bush proposes a $708 million cut to the Army Corps of Engineers, including reducing federal funding for hurricane and flood prevention in New Orleans by $71.2 million.

13 April 2005

The U.S. House of Representatives passes a $70 billion, White House-backed measure to eliminate the estate tax that falls on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

29 August 2005

Hurricane Katrina comes ashore. New Orleans’ flood and hurricane protection infrastructure collapses. The city floods, killing an untold number of residents and causing billions in damage.

1 September 2005

President Bush tells ABC News reporter Diane Sawyer that he refuses to reevaluate his budget and tax cut agenda. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan tells reporters, “Flood control has been a priority of this administration from day one.”

14 September 2005

Even though reconstruction after Katrina will cost tens of billions of dollars, and even though the nation’s infrastructure still remains dangerously vulnerable, Republicans tell reporters they will press forward with more tax cuts.

16 September 2005

In a White House press conference, President Bush pushes more spending cuts and then says that in the wake of huge reconstruction costs on the Gulf Coast, “we should not raise taxes.”

21 September 2005

Despite calls from Democrats and even some moderate Republicans for Congress to consider repealing some of Bush’s tax cuts, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (D-Texas) rejects any debate on the subject. Additionally, the Washington Post reports that DeLay is now pushing new tax cuts.

David Sirota, an In These Times senior editor and syndicated columnist, is a staff writer at PandoDaily and a bestselling author whose book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything was released in 2011. Sirota, whose previous books include The Uprising and Hostile Takeover, co-hosts "The Rundown" on AM630 KHOW in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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