The Fluor and Bechtel corporations have also received contracts for emergency services and rebuilding. All three companies have made billions off the Iraq occupation.

Bush confidante Joe Allbaugh, the former head of FEMA, helped Halliburton. Allbaugh, who now runs a lobbying firm, showed up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital, “just trying to lend my shoulder to the wheel.” His clients include firms in the “disaster relief business.”

Disaster management is one of the many federal areas being privatized, according to an investigative report last year by the Jackson (Mississippi) Free Press. Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran, wrote to Congress in June 2004 that “our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.”

On Sept. 8, Bush signed an executive order suspending the federal law requiring government construction contractors to pay the prevailing wage in a region. This will allow federal contractors in affected areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to avoid using union labor. Critics say it will also result in shoddy reconstruction, as cheaper and less-skilled workers are hired instead. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) noted that in New Orleans “the prevailing wage for construction labor is about $9 per hour.”

The $51.8 billion emergency aid bill passed by Congress Sept. 8 included a provision raising the cap on federal employees using government-issued credit cards from $15,000 to $250,000. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) noted there would be “no limit” on the number of purchases, and said it would lead to “extensive waste, fraud, and abuse.” A congressional investigation in 2002 of the credit-card program found that purchases included children’s clothing, video rentals, automotive supplies, pizzas, a dog and Internet pornography.