The New York Times contradicts itself in Katrina's wake

Once a Pariah, Army Corps of Engineers Now the Tonic For All Our Ills

In the wake of catastrophic damage to New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, the New York Times appears to not only be engaging in some of the most preposterous Monday morning—quarterbacking in its history, but is also flatly contradicting positions that it had previously taken concerning the Army Corps of Engineers.

A lead story and an editorial on September 1, as well as subsequent op—eds by Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd the next two days, all sung the praises of the Army Corps of Engineers.  Below is just a flavor of the Times' newly found affection for America's Earthmovers for Hire:

'The 17th Street levee that gave way and led to the flooding of New Orleans was part of an intricate, aging system of barriers and pumps that was so chronically underfinanced that senior regional officials of the Army Corps of Engineers complained about it publicly for years. '

From these articles, one gets the impression that if the Bush Administration had given the Army Corps of Engineers a blank check, New Orleans would be fine today.

However, the Times hasn't always been so enamored with the corps as it appears to be now.  As reported by George Adair of EU Rota on September 2, the Times had this to say just five months ago in an editorial entitled 'The Untouchable Corps':

'Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water—related projects — this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.'

'This is a bad piece of legislation.'

The legislation in question is Senate S. 728, The Water Resources Development Act of 2005 sponsored by Christopher Bond (R—MO).  A thorough reading of this proposed bill  — which coincidentally has had no new action related to it since April 26 — indicates that considerable focus was given to projects in Louisiana including one for hurricane and storm damage reduction with an estimated Federal cost of $512 million. This should not be a surprise as Mary Landrieu (D—LA) is one of its sponsors.

Doesn't this raise a question as to why the Times was against this bill when it was introduced five months ago, but is now castigating the president for, in essence, doing exactly what the Times advocated? 

Yet, this isn't the first instance of corps bashing by the TimesGarden State Enviro Net archives this editorial  from June 23, 2003 entitled 'Time to Re—engineer the Corps':

'The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has a rare opportunity tomorrow to strike a blow for both fiscal sanity and the environment. Before the committee is a bill that would bring a measure of discipline and independent oversight to the Army Corps of Engineers, an incorrigibly spendthrift agency whose projects over the years have caused enormous damage to the nation's streams, rivers and wetlands.'

In addition, Forest Conservation Portal captured this Times editorial from August 19, 2002  entitled 'Taming the Untouchable Corps':

'There are not many issues that the liberal Tom Daschle of South Dakota and the conservative Robert Smith of New Hampshire agree on. But when Congress reconvenes, these two senators, along with the campaign finance mavericks John McCain and Russell Feingold, are determined to challenge the self—interest of many of their colleagues by instituting a top—to—bottom overhaul of the Army Corps of Engineers.'

'In April, the General Accounting Office found that the corps had vastly overestimated the economic payoff of a $300 million dredging project in the Delaware River — the latest in a series of projects where the corps seems to have cooked the books to justify huge budget outlays.'

In this editorial, the Times was referring to a bill that didn't come to fruition until March 2004 when it was introduced by Russ Feingold (D—WI), John McCain (R—AZ), and Tom Daschle (D—SD).  Coincidentally, no action has been taken on this bill since its introduction either. 

Adding it all up:

  •  In 2002, the Times claimed the corps is desperately in need of reform due to its corrupt, malfeasant, seemingly Enron—like ways 
  •  In 2003, the Times saw the corps as incorrigibly spendthrift and causing damage to the environment 
  •  In 2004, the Times' favorite Republican, John McCain, co—sponsored a bill that addressed many of the Times' concerns regarding the corps  
  •  In 2005, the Times asked New York's senators to vote against a bill that would give $17 billion to the corps that included elaborate work in Louisiana

  • Yet, less than five months later, prior to any of the proposed changes for this agency having been formally legislated or effected, and with our nation in the middle of a crisis, the Times has changed horses midstream, and is eviscerating the president for not giving the corps every penny it has asked for since his inauguration. 

    It therefore seems uncannily fitting that the denouement in this Jim Jeffords moment is named 'Redemption in the Bayou', wherein the same editorial staff that asked New York's senators to oppose S. 728 almost five months ago appears to have lost its conviction a week after Katrina made landfall:

    'The conditions are thus ripe for a major effort to restore the Louisiana coast. The program before Congress was hatched by the state's politicians and in its universities and drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers.'

    If only the Times had the backbone it's continually telling the nation our president lacks.

    Noel Sheppard is an economist, business owner, and contributing writer for the Free Market Project.  He is also member of the Media Research Center's NewsBusters squad.  Noel welcomes your feedback at slep@danvillebc.com.

    Once a Pariah, Army Corps of Engineers Now the Tonic For All Our Ills

    In the wake of catastrophic damage to New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, the New York Times appears to not only be engaging in some of the most preposterous Monday morning—quarterbacking in its history, but is also flatly contradicting positions that it had previously taken concerning the Army Corps of Engineers.

    A lead story and an editorial on September 1, as well as subsequent op—eds by Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd the next two days, all sung the praises of the Army Corps of Engineers.  Below is just a flavor of the Times' newly found affection for America's Earthmovers for Hire:

    'The 17th Street levee that gave way and led to the flooding of New Orleans was part of an intricate, aging system of barriers and pumps that was so chronically underfinanced that senior regional officials of the Army Corps of Engineers complained about it publicly for years. '

    From these articles, one gets the impression that if the Bush Administration had given the Army Corps of Engineers a blank check, New Orleans would be fine today.

    However, the Times hasn't always been so enamored with the corps as it appears to be now.  As reported by George Adair of EU Rota on September 2, the Times had this to say just five months ago in an editorial entitled 'The Untouchable Corps':

    'Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water—related projects — this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.'

    'This is a bad piece of legislation.'

    The legislation in question is Senate S. 728, The Water Resources Development Act of 2005 sponsored by Christopher Bond (R—MO).  A thorough reading of this proposed bill  — which coincidentally has had no new action related to it since April 26 — indicates that considerable focus was given to projects in Louisiana including one for hurricane and storm damage reduction with an estimated Federal cost of $512 million. This should not be a surprise as Mary Landrieu (D—LA) is one of its sponsors.

    Doesn't this raise a question as to why the Times was against this bill when it was introduced five months ago, but is now castigating the president for, in essence, doing exactly what the Times advocated? 

    Yet, this isn't the first instance of corps bashing by the TimesGarden State Enviro Net archives this editorial  from June 23, 2003 entitled 'Time to Re—engineer the Corps':

    'The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has a rare opportunity tomorrow to strike a blow for both fiscal sanity and the environment. Before the committee is a bill that would bring a measure of discipline and independent oversight to the Army Corps of Engineers, an incorrigibly spendthrift agency whose projects over the years have caused enormous damage to the nation's streams, rivers and wetlands.'

    In addition, Forest Conservation Portal captured this Times editorial from August 19, 2002  entitled 'Taming the Untouchable Corps':

    'There are not many issues that the liberal Tom Daschle of South Dakota and the conservative Robert Smith of New Hampshire agree on. But when Congress reconvenes, these two senators, along with the campaign finance mavericks John McCain and Russell Feingold, are determined to challenge the self—interest of many of their colleagues by instituting a top—to—bottom overhaul of the Army Corps of Engineers.'

    'In April, the General Accounting Office found that the corps had vastly overestimated the economic payoff of a $300 million dredging project in the Delaware River — the latest in a series of projects where the corps seems to have cooked the books to justify huge budget outlays.'

    In this editorial, the Times was referring to a bill that didn't come to fruition until March 2004 when it was introduced by Russ Feingold (D—WI), John McCain (R—AZ), and Tom Daschle (D—SD).  Coincidentally, no action has been taken on this bill since its introduction either. 

    Adding it all up:

  •  In 2002, the Times claimed the corps is desperately in need of reform due to its corrupt, malfeasant, seemingly Enron—like ways 
  •  In 2003, the Times saw the corps as incorrigibly spendthrift and causing damage to the environment 
  •  In 2004, the Times' favorite Republican, John McCain, co—sponsored a bill that addressed many of the Times' concerns regarding the corps  
  •  In 2005, the Times asked New York's senators to vote against a bill that would give $17 billion to the corps that included elaborate work in Louisiana

  • Yet, less than five months later, prior to any of the proposed changes for this agency having been formally legislated or effected, and with our nation in the middle of a crisis, the Times has changed horses midstream, and is eviscerating the president for not giving the corps every penny it has asked for since his inauguration. 

    It therefore seems uncannily fitting that the denouement in this Jim Jeffords moment is named 'Redemption in the Bayou', wherein the same editorial staff that asked New York's senators to oppose S. 728 almost five months ago appears to have lost its conviction a week after Katrina made landfall:

    'The conditions are thus ripe for a major effort to restore the Louisiana coast. The program before Congress was hatched by the state's politicians and in its universities and drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers.'

    If only the Times had the backbone it's continually telling the nation our president lacks.

    Noel Sheppard is an economist, business owner, and contributing writer for the Free Market Project.  He is also member of the Media Research Center's NewsBusters squad.  Noel welcomes your feedback at slep@danvillebc.com.