How to Spend (Almost) $1 Billion A Day

The President promises a massive rebuilding effort with no concrete numbers--and no tax cuts. While Congress grumbles about how to pay for it, the issue on the ground is: Who gets the cash?

Every single purchase during a natural-disaster-relief operation is billed to a four-digit federal code. In accounting terms, Hurricane Charley was known as 1539 and 1543. Ivan had nine codes, starting with 1548, one for each state affected by the emergency. Hurricane Katrina is such a vast and expensive undertaking that it has been assigned 45 separate codes: 1602 for Florida, 1603 for Louisiana, 1604 for Mississippi and 1605 for Alabama, plus one for every state taking in evacuees. For months and perhaps years to come, those codes will be used by the Federal Government to pay for, and keep track of,...

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