Thursday, September 29, 2005

Before You Take My Money To Rebuild Louisiana ...

Two hurricanes have now hit Louisiana, wreaking terrible destruction. New Orleans continues to flood. Hundreds of thousands of people are scattered across the country, many in shelters. Given the scale of the calamity, surely it's time for Louisiana politicians to stop, assess the damage and work out the most rational way to help their state recover. Surely this is not the time for the government to write blank checks, for legislators to get greedy about unnecessary canals in their districts, or for federal agencies to launch projects that make future flooding more likely. Surely this is the time to spend money wisely. Right?

As ex-FEMA chief Mike Brown calls Louisiana "dysfunctional," the New Orleans police superintendent resigns with 250 officers under investigation for going AWOL. Was the Big Easy a disaster waiting to happen?

One need only revisit events such as 200 buses sitting idle in a flooded city lot or the blocking of an American Red Cross relief convoy from reaching the New Orleans Superdome, to accept the premise that there's enough blame to go around.

As we've also noted, nine months before Katrina, three officials of Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness were indicted for obstructing an audit of the use, or misuse, of federal funds for flood-mitigation activities.

Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of indicted officials per capita. Just the past generation has seen a governor, an attorney general, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted of assorted crimes.

Police Superintendent Eddie Compass didn't say why he suddenly resigned. But it comes after his department announced that about 250 New Orleans police officers — 15% of the force — could face punishment for leaving their posts without permission during Katrina.

Before Katrina, New Orleans was a crime-ridden city with a murder rate 10 times the national average. Only one in four murders result in a conviction, largely because retaliation against potential witnesses is common. Yet New Orleans had only three cops per 1,000 residents, a ratio less than half that of Washington, D.C.

Investor's Business Daily

Before using MY money to rebuild a city that I DON'T live in, I would like some ASSURANCES that my money is being WELL SPENT, and not foolishly dumped into the muddy Mississippi River. Is that too much to ask?

The Louisiana congressional delegation's new request is for $250 billion in hurricane reconstruction funds. This money - more than $50,000 per Louisiana resident - would come on top of the $62.3 billion Congress has already appropriated, on top of the charitable donations, on top of the insurance payouts. Wow.

The proposal demands $40 billion (yep, as in $40,000,000,000) of new Army Corps of Engineers spending, 16 times more than the Corps says it needs to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane. They are playing by the rules of the only system for distributing federal funds that there is, and that system allocates money not according to the dictates of logic, but to the demands of politics and patronage.

our sympathy for the Pelican State's political leaders is starting to fade. Louisiana has been ravaged by two hurricanes, much of its largest city is in ruins and huge numbers of its people are without homes. All true.

If America's spirit of compassion has no limits, its public purse does - or rather my private purse does. The federal government is rightly helping Louisiana clean up, rebuild and guard against future catastrophes. But it's not obliged to hand over hundreds of billions in aid with no questions asked. Nor is it morally required to build up Louisiana into something grander than it was before.

Congress needs to muster up the courage, for once, to fulfill its obligations to American taxpayers.