FEMA initially wasted tens of millions of dollars when it tried to aid Katrina victims. But now we find out that that one unknown federal offical's second-grade math skills aren't good enough to get people the aid they need. What was supposed to be $85 million in aid turned out to only $18.5 million due to a mathematical error which counted a single item as being worth as much as multiple items contained in a package of goods. For instance, in a package of sporks, each spork was counted as its own package, which inflated the value from $36,000 to $36 million. Many of the items were being stored in warehouses, rather than being distributed. A joint Congressional hearing on Thursday will examine the details of the give-away. Mistakes happen. But this is the second time in just a few weeks that FEMA officials embarrassed themselves. Basic competence, and learning from mistakes, doesn’t seem like much to ask for.

--Abby Rapoport

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