Audit D.C. Notes: Maddow on Katrina, WaPo on Mystery Dems, What Dodd Didn’t Ask

It’s good to see all the coverage of New Orleans five years after Katrina. But Rachel Maddow’s show Thursday night stood out for its sharp focus on one angle of the storm’s aftermath: just how really difficult it is for low-income people to live in the city.

The nearly 11-minute segment hones in on the shortage of affordable public housing, and the number of low-income units that were lost in the city’s push toward more mixed-income housing. The effects are predictable, and staggering: homelessness in the city has skyrocketed and there’s a waiting list of 28,000 families for affordable housing in New Orleans right now.

Maddow had a few other handy facts that do a great job of putting the situation in real context. LIke this: the cost of shelter as a percent of paycheck is higher in New Orleans than it is in New York City. Ouch.

It’s an important piece of the post-Katrina story, and well worth watching. The video is here. The transcript is here (or should be, soon.)

The Washington Post teased me this morning with a story about how the shaky economy is changing the tax-cut debate on Capitol Hill.

The lede puts the premise of the piece plainly:

With the economy rapidly weakening, some senior Democrats are having second thoughts about raising taxes on the nation’s wealthiest families and are pressing party leaders to consider extending the full array of Bush administration tax cuts, at least through next year.

A bit further down, the story mentions “a growing cadre of Democrats” who want to permanently extend the middle class tax cuts and renew “breaks for the wealthy through 2011,” and attributes that nugget to senior Democratic aides.

But the Post never gets around to naming any names. Just who are the Dems who like this idea? Are there a lot of them?

Despite that shortcoming, the piece gets my vote for stat of the day, courtesy of economist Mark Zandi:

“Normally, I would firmly agree that raising taxes on people who make over $250,000 a year would not make a meaningful difference in the way they spend money. But I worry that these aren’t normal times and that even this income group may be sensitive,” Zandi said, noting that the top 3 percent of households account for a quarter of all personal spending.

Wow. That’s a lot of shopping.

—The Huffington Post’s Shahien Nasiripour does a nice job of bringing some perspective to Sen. Christopher Dodd’s concerns about Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy to lead the new consumer protection bureau.

Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, “has repeatedly asked whether Warren possesses the appropriate management experience to lead a large federal bureaucracy.”

But, as Nasiripour writes, that’s hardly business as usual for Dodd:

A review of transcripts from past confirmation hearings shows that Dodd has never questioned the management experience of nominees to head federal agencies his committee oversees. The heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Housing Administration, the Export-Import Bank and the National Credit Union Administration all survived hearings under Dodd’s chairmanship without him once asking a question about the experience needed to guide their respective agencies.

Nor did Dodd raise any management questions when prospective bank regulators came before his committee — even when the regulators did not have significant management experience. In the two years prior to his assuming the chairmanship in 2007, the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Thrift Supervision, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and a prior chief of the SEC all came before his committee. Each time, Dodd declined to ask about their experience running bureaucracies, a review of transcripts shows.

That’s good reporting, and good context on a story that’s still unfolding.

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Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at