The Hightower Report

The "New" FEMA; and Subsidizing Boeing's Criminality


The U.S. Senate has voted to kill FEMA. Yes, FEMA is finito.

The infamous Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency that so totally botched its handling of last year's Hurricane Katrina emergency that it became a national embarrassment and a comic punch line for comedians everywhere succumbed in the Senate to an 87-11 vote to kill it.

Yet, FEMA still lives in spirit, for at the same time that our senators voted to kill the much-maligned agency, they also voted to create a "new" agency to perform its duties under another name. So, FEMA is now EMA – the Emergency Management Authority.

This is much like how breakfast-cereal makers do when sales sag. They come out with a "New!" version of their product, which usually is the same old stuff – though at a higher price and with less of it in the box. It's a packaging scam.

Not so with EMA, shouts Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who co-sponsored the FEMA redo with sort-of-Democrat Joe Lieberman. "It is not business as usual," she assures us, "but rather a dramatic reform of FEMA."

Really? Aside from the new name, EMA still is stuck in the bungling bureaucratic behemoth known as the Department of Homeland Security, which lobbied heavily to keep the agency in its grasp. Well, yes, say the senators, but we provided an escape clause that lets the new! EMA report directly to the president in times of major disasters.

But, what if the president is a major disaster, as Bush was during Katrina? Even though FEMA did warn George about what was coming, he casually vacationed as the hurricane approached and then wandered off to California political rallies while New Orleans and the Gulf Coast drowned.

Gimmicks won't work. The American people need a fully funded, professionally run disaster agency that is independent of bureaucratic overlays and presidential incompetence.


Even when a big corporation is caught red-handed in an illegal scam to steal billions of dollars from us taxpayers – Bush & Company still can't resist showing compassion and favoritism to the corporate brethren, blowing a sweet kiss to the thieving giant.

Boeing is this particular giant's name, and it has been a reliable and generous donor to George W. and his Republican party. Maybe that's why Boeing executives thought they could get away with using the horror of 9/11 as a shield to extract $23 billion from our public treasury through a scheme that involved leasing some of its old passenger planes to the Air Force. Fortunately for us, some whistleblowers made Boeing's blatant burglary public, and, in 2002, Congress stopped Bush's Pentagon from going along with it.

Indeed, there was such a public uproar that the Justice Department filed both criminal and civil charges against Boeing. Now, four years later, Bush's attorney general, Alberto "See-No-Evil" Gonzalez, has quietly settled the case. Boeing is to pay $615 million, in exchange for which its legal slate will be wiped clean. You might think that that's a sizable punishment, but wait – here comes the Bush kiss. The Justice Department's deal allows Boeing to take a tax deduction on the bulk of its $615 million penalty.

This means that Boeing's punishment for trying to gouge us taxpayers would be subsidized by – guess who? – us taxpayers! The Bushites' settlement, which forces you and me to underwrite criminal corporate conduct, is so stinky that even Republican lawmakers are appalled. Three GOP senators have called the Boeing deal "inexcusable" and "unacceptable."

If you attempted to rob a bank, as Boeing attempted to rob the U.S. Treasury, chances are the attorney general would not intervene to give you a subsidized fine. In the strange place called BushWorld, however, corporate crime is special.The "New" FEMA; and Subsidizing Boeing's Criminality

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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