During his testimony to the congressional whitewash panel on Katrina, Brownie got right down to the heart of the problem:
"It is inherently impractical, totally impractical, for the federal government to respond to every disaster of whatever size in every community across the country."
Forget for the moment Brownie's specific incompetence (though it is great) and forget for the moment he's accepting some responsibility primarily by blaming others. (He said he should have recognized Blanco and Nagin were not getting the job done and stepped up himself, for example.) Forget for a moment the specific incompetence of the Bush administration (though it, too, is great.) Brownie's quote gets right to the philosophy which pervades conservative thinking, and which is really at the heart of the failed preparations and response.
The Katrina disaster did not simply expose incompetence at high levels of government. It did that in spades, to be sure, but it exposed a great deal more. Bush didn't fill key positions at agencies critical to the safety of Americans with cronies strictly because he's part of a corrupt system. He was able to do it with relative ease because Conservatives do not take these agencies seriously. In the modern conservative view, it's not the role of the federal government to provide disaster relief, so it's not any sort of controversy to appoint a clearly under-qualified individual to head the agency assigned to respond to disasters. It's not the role of the federal government to oversee health care issues, so there's nothing wrong with placing a veterinarian in charge of women's health at the FDA.
Politically, they could not cut cut these programs, but that does not mean they need to take them seriously. If you don't value these programs, if you don't believe their missions are any business of the federal government's, then you don't really care about the qualifications of the people you appoint. These are useless, wasteful programs which can't be cut, so they might as well be used to reward supporters. So what if key government programs are undermined? They're not worthwhile to begin with. This is not a surprising development, and perhaps even an inevitable one, of the modern conservative takeover of government.
We can try to fix the problems on the ground - which we must - but we cannot let it end there. We have an incompetent conservative administration in the White House and mostly incompetent conservative leadership in congress. That made matters worse, but it did not create the problems. The real problem is modern conservatism itself.
From It Affects You