Time to get out of the way of rising water headed into the area roughly between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers, and whatever flooding occurs in the next couple of weeks raises three political questions for Louisiana state politics going forward.
First, how much relative blame will state government get for the fact that as many as 25,000 people may get washed out of house and home and perhaps thousands of businesses ranging from farms to highly technology-dependent firms could find themselves under water? Technically, there should be none because the state has nothing to do with the decision that was controlled by the federal government, and the Army Corps of Engineers in particular (which may help redeem the ACE in the eyes of those around New Orleans but create an entire new set of complainers in the Atchafalaya Basin).
But, a lot of people won’t realize this so the logical lightning rod would be Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Yet at the same time, how could any putative candidates for his job this fall capitalize on this? They should know he had nothing to do with, and even if they could insinuate somehow he did without outright falsely stating that he did, what would they be implying? That the Republican Jindal turned on the spigot to inconvenience 25,000 to prevent the swamping of 2.5 million? And they would have “decided” differently?
Second, despite all this, how long will it be before some Democrat actually tries to (pardon the expression) float this idea? Given the paucity of quality ideas and ebbing political fortunes of their party, it seems probable that at some point some state or local office elected Democrat yahoo somewhere – probably safe from the rising tide both from the water and rising Republican sentiment their districts electorally speaking – will try to blame Jindal and, if feeling expansive, Republicans in general for not just the release of water, but maybe even the weather that produced the flood stage conditions. Wait for it.
Third, how much should it cost taxpayers? Specifically, at the federal level, it’ll cost a bunch. With disaster declarations in place, the precipitation that fell months ago in northern climes to create the water flow in a few weeks will be replaced by the rain of money coming down on the affected areas in the state. The private insurance market will get some of the tab, but the federal government will pick up a lot more of it through things like crop insurance. It will be higher than necessary because a number of affected people probably did not take advantage of the big scam known as flood insurance, the only kind you can get the price of which bears no relationship to the market and is run by the federal government.
While it is lamentable that people are going to get flooded out, at the same time those without flood insurance showed a distinct lack of responsibility by not taking it out (it only comes in two sizes, both less than $500 a year). Common sense should tell you, if you are in a flood plain and/or near any nontrivially-sized body of water, it might flood no matter how high and how many levees there are. For restitution, now not only will these unfortunates have to run a greater gauntlet of bureaucracy, but also more costs than had to be will get offloaded onto the American taxpayer.
From the state perspective, insurance will not be an issue (no wind or hail damage here for the state-run insurer to pay out) but loss of tax revenues from the affected areas will create yet another, while not man-made, man-enabled disaster to hit the state along with recent subpar levee failures and neglect and short-sighted moratorium decisions. So Louisiana absorbs yet another economic blow that has as much to do with politics, even in a case of serving the best interests of the state as a whole, as with the vagaries of the natural world.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:30