Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Whims of Nature

This commentary by The Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss has been getting a lot of attention. Originally run in The Washington Post, it's been reprinted in other papers around the country.

Do Not Forsake Us

Mr. Amoss makes several good points, the most important of which is the need for significant storm protection for Louisiana.

I have heard some say that we who live below sea level should take "personal responsibility" for our decision to live here. And that government cannot be expected to rescue us from the consequences of our "bad choices."

First, I will pause for a moment while you imagine the many expletives I initially wanted to use in response to those comments.


Now let me put this as plainly as I can. The federal government has provided flood protection for almost 100 years. This is a responsibility legally and dutifully accepted by Congress and the President going back to the 1917 Flood Control Act. So let's just drop this nonsense that the good citizens of New Orleans are trying to dodge "personal responsibility" here--hurricane protection is the Fed's job.

In addition to the disruption, inconvenience and grief this hurricane has caused me and my family, I have personally suffered many thousands of dollars of loss in real property. And I'm not asking the federal government to fix that. My house is totally uninhabitable, and it is doubtful that I can or should rebuild it even if I can afford to. I'm not asking the federal governmnt to fix that, either.

I ask the federal government, via Congress and the President, to provide just one essential service to their citizens in Louisiana: real flood protection.

I fail to understand why this is such a problem. A recent report from the Corps of Engineers, completed in consultation with officials from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Public Works and Water Management, placed a price tag of $33 billion to do this.

Consider this: President Bush's 2006 budget totalled $2.6 trillion (that's trillion, with a T). Safeguarding Louisiana from the next hurricane costs about ONE PERCENT of that, even less when spread out as it would be over several years.

Remember the saying, "Brother, can you spare a dime?" It's as if Louisiana is saying, "Brother, can you spare a penny?"

So what exactly are we spending those trillions of dollars on? Since invading Iraq in the name of national security, Congress and the President have authorized spending $251billion over there. And in recent years, Congress and the President have spent $30 billion per year on highway projects. Are the stability of Iraq and improved highways more important than the safety of Americans who live and work in South Louisiana?

Don't make us beg. And don't act like we're asking for the stars and the moon. Congress and the President should provide the flood protection they're supposed to and for which they are responsible. Then, and only then, can we locals rebuild New Orleans. As President Bush told the nation, "Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature -- and we will not start now."

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