As levees crumbled in New Orleans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, so, too, tumbled any sense of decorum among key black Democrats. Officials and activists alike are re-submerging the Crescent City in a fact-free torrent of vitriol.
“George Bush is our Bull Connor,” Rep. Charles Rangel of New York told cheering Congressional Black Caucus conventioneers on September 22. “If you’re black in this country, and you’re poor in this country, it’s not an inconvenience. It’s a death sentence.”
Rangel equated Republican President Bush to Theophilus “Bull” Connor, Birmingham, Alabama’s former segregationist police commissioner who notoriously used attacks dogs and fire hoses to disrupt civil rights marches by Martin Luther King Jr. and other protesters in 1963. As is Rangel, Bull Connor was a Democrat.
As Barron suggested, I asked Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst Kirk Johnson to look at these neighborhoods. While Bush has taken responsibility for Washington’s disjointed first response to Katrina—notwithstanding the 33,544 hurricane survivors who U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and boat crews started saving as soon as winds dropped below 45 MPH—he need not apologize for neglecting the Big Easy’s poor before these hurricanes.
Using the Consolidated Federal Funds Report’s latest data, Johnson found that, “Across all federal programs, Orleans Parish received $12,645 per capita in fiscal year 2003. At the same time, the national average was $7,089 per capita. Put another way, New Orleans received 78.4 percent more funding per person than the national average.”
Johnson also examined 21 low-income-assistance programs. Among them, inflation-adjusted federal poverty spending in Orleans Parish equaled $5,899 per-poor-person in Bill Clinton’s final, full-fiscal-year 2000 budget. By fiscal 2003, such outlays soared to $10,222. Under Bush, federal anti-poverty spending per-poor-New Orleanian ballooned 73.3 percent, or an average, annual hike of 24.4 percent over three years!
Johnson discovered, for instance, that spending on Immunization Grants dropped 80.51 percent, and Supportive Housing for the Elderly fell 25.6 percent during Bush’s first three years. However, Child Support Enforcement grew 8.3 percent. Head Start rose 13.8 percent. Food Stamps increased 43.1 percent. Pell Grants advanced 126 percent. Community Health Center funding accelerated 163.6 percent, and so on.