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13.2.06

Levee reform actions show Louisiana still needs tough love

It’s only taken about five months, but Louisiana’s mainstream media finally is catching on to the full ramifications of the fact that the state must accept tough love from the federal government in order to weather the effects of the hurricane disasters, with a salutary side effect that this could kickstart political reform so desperately needed. If only the state’s political elites would do the same.

This isn’t to argue that the light bulb suddenly came on, nor that it went from totally dark to incredibly bright. A gradualism has marked the process. On levee governance reform, the state’s mainstream media got on the bandwagon early, far before Gov. Kathleen Blanco. But on other matters, it has been just as far behind the curve as the more important elected officials.

Perhaps the best example is the so-called Baker bill, a questionable plan which would have created a huge new federal bureaucracy which would transfer tens of billions of dollars to those with property interests in Louisiana which the federal government could well never see again. Blanco basically made it her recovery plan (even as the federal government points out there’s really no plan at all). Louisiana’s media and politicians have been united in supporting it, but it was rejected by the White House which brought near-universal scorn from the state’s media and politicians (see this typical media response). But the thing is, a good part of the country rightly agrees with that decision (see this typical response), viewing the legislation as another giveaway not requiring the state show some sign that it plans to do its utmost to exhaust all remedies and resources.

Part of that sign would come from meaningful, significant levee governance reform, which seems to be slipping away in the special session. Part of that sign would be for Blanco to drop the counterproductive, combative attitude that she has towards Washington. Part of that sign, most importantly, would be in the regular session for state government to make significant budget cuts, not in a slashing across the board but by creating priorities and lopping off programs and changing the mix of beneficiaries so that efficiency rather than political clout rules the day in allocation decisions, removing a vestige of the liberalism/populism that has infected the state’s politics its entire history.

It bears repeating: these aren’t children running Washington such as in the Clinton era. Grownups are in charge now, responsible for the entire country’s welfare, and they are not going to assist Louisiana if they perceive that assistance will only perpetuate a political system based more on spreading resources to favored constituencies than on empowering individuals, on spending without responsibility. The dying of real levee governance reform just displays another example of how patronage and parochialism continues to rule the day – and, as always, when the knowable consequences of it become realized by them, the political elites who brought it about will moan and complain about how its everybody’s fault but their own, that Louisianans are treated like “second-class citizens,” when in fact these politicians simply are unable to accept the consequences of their own actions like the spoiled children that they are.

It’s worth reiterating: Louisiana must change its ways before the rest of the country is willing to invest heavily in it. Our countrymen see it, and many in the state realize it (increasingly including the media); if only those (mainly Democrats) in charge would agree to it. Thus, the federal government has the obligation to continue its policy of tough love in regards to Louisiana so long as these leaders refuse to mend their ways and/or the public at the ballot box refuses to replace them with more responsible individuals.

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