In the long and sordid story of Hurricane Katrina, a new low may be approaching. In Louisiana alone, tens of thousands of displaced families who rely on the government to provide trailers or rent will lose their temporary housing next month — unless the Bush administration extends the standard 18-month time limit for their federal aid. A year and a half is a long time for anything that is supposed to be transitional, as the families still trapped in cramped, flimsy trailers can testify.

But the temporary help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot end until the victims have somewhere else to go. And the federal and local governments have moved far too slowly in providing reconstruction money and building guidance.

The Democratic leaders in the new Congress need to recognise that the many failures of Hurricane Katrina are more than just another reason to criticise the president. They need to quickly outline their own plans for salvaging New Orleans. That New Orleans remains a shattered city is a sad monument to impotence for the most powerful country in the world.

Our grand plans were never laid, our brightest minds were never assembled, nation’s muscle and ingenuity never brought to bear in any concerted way to overcome the crisis of the Gulf. — The New York Times