Transcript: Katrina Waste

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," February 13, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Right now, your money being used to pay for expensive hotel rooms, beachfront condos on the Gulf of Mexico, and luxury suites with flat-panel TV screens — it's all for victims of Hurricane Katrina, but so much of it has been literally wasted. The question is, how much?

Four hundred thirty-eight dollars per night per room at New York's swanky Millenium Hilton hotel in Manhattan, while the average price for a room in the U.S. is closer to 60 bucks — and over $300 million for nearly 11,000 manufactured homes in Arkansas they are unused because they are sinking in the mud.

Why did the government not do a better job with your money?

Let's ask the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Bill Thomas of California.

Mr. Chairman, welcome.

We should stress, of course, your committee doesn't oversee FEMA. But what can we do to ensure this kind of waste isn't repeated?

REP. BILL THOMAS, R-CALIF.: Well, first of all, we all should be outraged at way in which the government took care of taxpayers' money.

We were concerned about that when we dealt with the tax package for Katrina. And I think you will find that we know exactly where our money is going, and we are monitoring it carefully. There will, of course, be congressional review. But it's always after the fact. And I'm just as disgusted as anybody else.

CAVUTO: Now, I know you have earmarked a way to provide protection and funds for those who need it, but how can you make sure the legislation you have pushed will do that and not be wasted?

THOMAS: Well, because of the way it's structured, in terms of actual behavior and performance being required to earn the money after the fact, not before.


Where do we stand on Katrina moneys spent thus far? I mean, it seems to be an abyss, the amount that is committed, and will be continually committed, right into the next hurricane season.

THOMAS: Well, I don't know. And I didn't know that was going to be the series of questions that you were going to ask. I, obviously, can get that information for you.

But, as far as the tax rounds are concerned, we are through. We did the initial relief, in terms of assisting individuals. We did recovery, in terms of bonus depreciation, and some other changes, and then reconstruction. And that is now in its final phase. And, of course, we required the states to assist, so that they weren't sitting there, waiting for federal money to help rebuild.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir, about something you are very familiar with, tax cut extensions, and whether the president will get his wish to make sure that they don't just go into deadline obscurity.

THOMAS: Well, first of all, you have got to extend those that are due to expire.

I thought, perhaps, that the increase in the stock market was based upon the information that the Senate, at long last, has named conferees to the Tax Reconciliation Conference, and that they knew that we were going to move forward and extend the reduced rates on dividends and cap gains.

CAVUTO: What does your gut tell you, sir? Do you think we are going to get them?

THOMAS: Well, it won't be my gut that I will be using.


THOMAS: Mostly, it will be persuasion and evidence that the economy responds significantly when you help people show that it pays to save and invest.

CAVUTO: All right.

I wish we had more time, Chairman, with all this breaking news. We do appreciate your coming by, as always.

THOMAS: My pleasure.

CAVUTO: Bill Thomas, the man who runs the House Ways and Means Committee.

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