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Incomprehensible

Posted on Monday 26 September 2005

Not to mention reprehensible. From page A1 of today’s Washington Post:

Louisiana Goes After Federal Billions
Louisiana’s congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane.

Louisiana Sens. David Vitter (R) and Mary Landrieu (D) tucked the request into their $250 billion Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act, the state’s opening salvo in the scramble for federal dollars.

The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful “Pelican Commission” controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a “working group” dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests.

If I hadn’t lived in Washington for very nearly my entire life I’d find this almost comical. I suppose that the money that the levee board apparently embezzled wasn’t enough; now the entire state delegation to the US Congress wants to put its hands into the piggy bank above and beyond an appropriate amount of disaster relief. This is shameless and looks to me to be an attempt to continue ‘corruption as usual’ in Louisiana.

[Later] Prof. Reynolds asks if this is pork; I don’t think so. Pork got it’s name from ‘bring home the bacon’, as in “We send us a congressman to Washington to get us some of that Federal money back here.” This Louisiana thing is more like an attempt to rob Fort Knox. Reynolds also points to John Fund’s article on waste and fraud at Opinionjournal.com, A Swamp of Corruption:

Put bluntly, the local political cultures don’t engender confidence that aid won’t be diverted from the people who truly need and deserve it… Last year, Lou Riegel, the agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office, described Louisiana’s public corruption as “epidemic, endemic, and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt.”

Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of elected officials per capita convicted of crimes (Mississippi takes top prize). In just the past generation, the Pelican State has had a governor, an attorney general, three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted. Last year, three top officials at Louisiana’s Office of Emergency Preparedness were indicted on charges they obstructed a probe into how federal money bought out flood-prone homes. Last March the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered Louisiana to repay $30 million in flood-control grants it had awarded to 23 parishes.

[Still later]
More on this from an LSU poli sci professor:

So, let’s get this straight. Louisiana, from some of her federal officials through some state officials all they way down to city and other local governments, countenanced negligence from benign to irresponsible in ensuring proper flood protection and in dealing with hurricanes. And now these same people have formulated a plan wanting the country to pay an incredible sum of money to the state controlled by people from the state to deal with the aftereffects and, apparently, Louisiana’s past inability to utilize our resources efficiently in other areas?

The rest of the country is going to look at this and think we’re still stuck on stupid.


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