Sunday, October 02, 2005

Louisiana matters

Yesterday, Senator Mary Landrieu responded to last week's Washington Post editorial with a written op-ed explaining why Louisiana matters. Obviously it was necessary for the state to respond in some fashion to that newspaper's scathing editorial -- regardless of the many truths buried within it. But Landrieu's response is to highlight all the important things Louisiana does for the country -- sea food, oil & gas, extremely busy ports, etc. All valid points with which no one disagrees. But Senator Landrieu sidestepped the Post's primary argument: Louisiana has demonstrated no awareness of a need to change the way it does business. Instead Landrieu writes,

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. 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.
I again direct your attention to language in the Post's original editorial:
Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. For example, their bill demands $7 billion for rebuilding evacuation and energy supply routes, but it also demands a separate $5 billion for road building and makes no mention of the $3.1 billion already awarded to the state in the recent transportation legislation. The bill demands $50 billion in community development block grants, partly to get small businesses going, but it also demands $150 million for a small-business loan fund plus generous business tax breaks. 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 Post editorial continued:
The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. [emphasis added]
And that's the rub. In a statement of righteous indignation that Louisiana should be so badly maligned by a major newspaper, Senator Landrieu neglects to address the issue at the core of all federally-funded post-Katrina and post-Rita reconstruction concerns: The state's demonstrated inability to make good use of many of the federal dollars it does get. Senator Landrieu argues that Lousiana should be given broad-ranging control of the reconstruction process but fails to acknowledge anything about the reality of the context within which this disaster took place. It's that continued denial of reality that has the rest of the country rightly concerned about how federal dollars might be used in the Bayou State.