US Corruption: The French Connection

As previously noted, the US is surprisingly rated as more corrupt than the UK. That’s partially because its pols are more corrupt, but also because some states are more corrupt than France – for example Louisiana.

The flow of federal dollars to the Gulf Coast two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the region already exceeds what the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

President Bush and Congress have committed more than $127 billion in resources and tax relief for the region — significantly more than inflation-adjusted $107.6 billion directed to 16 countries in Europe between 1947 and 1951.

An amount of money greater than needed to rebuild an entire continent has vanished into the dust because:

The Senate Homeland Security Committee conducted an eight-month investigation that “uncovered massive and unacceptable fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars” including “$1 billion in improper and potentially fraudulent payments” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and “millions of dollars in payments were paid in the name of individuals incarcerated in prisons.”

The Justice Department says 764 persons nationwide have been arrested on charges of fraud in 680 cases in the recovery efforts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Mississippi leads the nation with about 150 people charged…

The cases include a wide array of charges including bribery, making false claims with federal and state agencies, and even attempts to defraud the Red Cross — charities have donated nearly $4 billion, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“Pretty much every program that provides disaster relief, we’re seeing fraud,” said David R. Dugas, a Justice spokesman with the Middle District of Louisiana, where about 125 hurricane-fraud charges have been reported — the second most in the country.

So if you find, as we have, that New Hampshire, Minnesota, and California are as uncorrupted as the UK, bear in mind that Louisiana drags the US average down a lot.

And the folks in New Orleans are still whining:

“This community is grateful for the help. But Louisiana’s losses were dramatically higher than any other state’s and thus deserving of greater compensation,” said an editorial in yesterday’s Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

“I took a lot of heat from people who really expect the federal government to not just send help, but to make sure the help gets to the people who need it,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee after returning last night from a town meeting in New Orleans on the second anniversary of Katrina…

That’s exactly what the French said about Marshall Aid – they wanted more of it and they wanted other people to do the work.

Since New Orleans was founded by the French, it seems US corruption is yet another dire legacy of that regrettable nation.

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