The anniversary of Katrina is upon us, and all too many commentators insist on treating it as a story about poverty. Nicole Gelinas, who will be speaking at an IWF panel on that subject, sets the record straight:

“Though President Bush declared on Saturday that Hurricane Katrina exposed ‘deep-seated poverty’ in America, the disaster isn’t ultimately a story of poverty or of race, but of the greatest failure of civil engineering in American history. Luckily, while the nation has never been able to solve poverty, it can solve the engineering problem at the heart of southern Louisiana’s potential recovery.”

Ironically, the obsession with pouring more money into poverty programs may have exacerbated the problems that led to Katrina’s full impact:

“Why didn’t the Corps design a consistent, redundant system? …

“Public officials have unfortunately lost interest in such rational infrastructure investment, doubtless because entitlement spending has consumed budgets as well as politicians’ attention. As the American Society of Civil Engineers warned last year, ‘congested highways, overflowing sewers and corroding bridges are constant reminders of the looming crisis that jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and our quality of life.’ As entitlement spending has gobbled up the federal budget, spending on infrastructure has fallen to about half where it was as a percentage of GDP 40 years ago; state and local infrastructure spending lags as well.”