Hurricane Katrina (August-September 2005) exposed the frailty and lack of preparedness of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and, to some extent, the National Guard. It brought into sharp relief the cancerous politicization of the crony-infested federal government.
FEMA is only the latest in a long chain of failed institutions. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) coped poorly with virulent corruption and malfeasance in Wall Street. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) capitulated in the face of commercial and political pressures and neglected to remove from the market malfunctioning medical devices and drugs with lethal side effects.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has sacrificed America's nature reserves to business interests. A heavily politicized Supreme Court legitimized manifestly tainted election results and made a president out of the loser of the popular vote. The disenfranchisement of minorities, the poor, and ex-convicts is now in full swing.
The legislature - the two houses of Congress - are deadlocked and paralyzed owing to partisanship and corruption. The executive either ignores laws passed by the the legislative branch of government (President Bush issued well over 750 "presidential statements", effectively obviating many of them) or actively encroaches on Congressional turf (for instance, by sending the FBI to search the offices of elected Representatives).
The organs of the government of the United States now function only when exposed to acute embarrassment and a revolted public opinion. Private firms and charities sprout to fulfill the gaps.