Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why Louisiana Matters

Mary L. Landrieu editorialized in WaPo The Sept. 27 editorial "Louisiana's Looters" displayed a profound ignorance of the regional and national miscalculation of this national disaster. It's not just that people's homes are underwater; that happens with every hurricane. It's not just that roofs have blown off; those are the usual visuals of a storm of this nature. It's that an entire region vital to our national energy supply, security and commerce has been devastated.

South Louisiana is the anchor of America's Energy Coast, securing more than three-quarters of U.S. offshore oil and gas production -- a greater share of our nation's energy supply than even the kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for.

And the oil companies have record profits, so they can easily afford to rebuild anything that was destroyed.
The ports of south Louisiana, including New Orleans, are America's gateway to the world, handling more than 20 percent of U.S. imports and exports each day, including more than 70 percent of all grains as they move from farms across the nation to markets overseas. And 40 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans each year comes through coastal Louisiana. But The Post dismissed the federal government's role in the rebuilding of these and other devastated sectors of our economy. It described an effort to rebuild the regional economy as extraneous, comparing it to a sports venue miles from Ground Zero in New York.
What WaPo said was "The bill even asks for $35 million for seafood marketing and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory. This is the equivalent of New York responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center by insisting upon a federally financed stadium in Brooklyn."
The people of Louisiana do not share this simplistic view. Nor would an Iowa farmer unable to bring his grain to market, or a Virginia mother who can't keep up with rising gas costs for the family car, or a Chicago seafood restaurateur trying to expand his business even as supplies are constrained.
None of those would build a major part of their city in a bowl that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level.
It is important to note that we will not rebuild New Orleans out of our own sense of need or nostalgia. We will renew and restore New Orleans and the region because its existence is dictated by the needs of U.S. commerce.
U.S. commerce may need the Port of Louisiana, but it has no need for most of the rest of New Orleans. Some tourists may like the French Quarter, but it is above sea level, and did not sustain serious damage.
The question is not whether Americans can afford to raise up Louisiana's economy; it is whether America can afford not to. The answer is clear: We must rebuild stronger, better and smarter than before.

Just as the Netherlands did after the devastating flood of 1953, we will build the world's strongest levee system. But rebuilding this region will take more than just higher levees.
I dont care how high and how strong you build the levees. If a hurricane goes right over New Orleans it would still flood an area 7 to 15 feet below sea level. If you are going to build levees, build them just to protect the French Quarter, and the rest of the land above sea level.
We must also build a better education system in the region, while figuring out a way to maintain the education of 200,000 displaced children and 73,000 displaced college students around the country.
If they are smart they will build new lives where they are, and not return to the graft and corruption in New Orleans.
We must build a better health care system in New Orleans and throughout south Louisiana, and we must figure out how to extend health care coverage to a million survivors whose employers are either gone, teetering on the verge of bankruptcy or dropping their coverage. We must provide the infrastructure and appropriate incentives for businesses and industry that are positioned to accept the risk of reopening their doors amid their unprecedented losses and the destruction around them.
Go right ahead, but do it with Louisiana money. Dont expect taxpayers in the other 49 states to subsidize you.
Finally, The Post's editorial accuses our delegation of disregarding the "root causes" of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. But even a cursory amount of journalistic effort would reveal years of requests to stem the repeated cuts to our flood and hurricane protection programs
And the fact that they got the majority of the Corp of Engineers budget, but because of efforts by people like Senator Landrieu to redirect what money they were given to projects unrelated to flood control.
-- most recently in a letter to the president in November -- as well as efforts to restore America's Wetland, our primary hurricane protection. A search of Post archives would demonstrate decades of unity on the part of our congressional delegation in seeking restoration of Louisiana's eroding coast, as the continued erosion increases the vulnerability of our coastal populations.

Despite this legacy of federal neglect, The Post criticizes proposals to give Louisiana greater control of the rebuilding effort. Let us be clear: Louisiana will be rebuilt by Louisianians. New Orleans will be rebuilt by New Orleanians. And the rest of southern Louisiana will be rebuilt under the leadership of the people who call it home.
Then they should use their own money. With all of the graft and dishonesty in Louisiana, no Federal Funds should be spent unless they are controled by Federal people.
Certainly The Post, long a champion of home rule, should appreciate this enduring spirit.
Actually home rule says that residents of Washington DC should be able to vote. People in Louisiana already have the vote, they just use it to elect idiots.

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