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Stuck on stupid X: Reform the Louisiana flood control money pit

And there’s a reason why the federal government still hasn’t decided whether to pay for Louisiana to have stronger levees, three months after the first of the hurricane disasters – because Louisiana’s leading female politicians keep acting like they’re stuck on stupid.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has done her share by supporting cosmetic changes to the state’s flood control policy while abandoning a measure that would have produced meaningful change. Sen. Mary Landrieu keeps on caterwauling about how the federal government isn’t doing enough (read: the mean old Republicans fronted by Pres. George W. Bush who, Landrieu never seems to remember, secured a majority of the vote against her preferred candidate) even in light of her own efforts to pull strings to use federal money that could have gone to flood control for other purposes.

Don’t think Washington isn’t noticing that state leaders did nothing this past legislative session to reform the flawed system of governance that was the main cause of the failure of flood protection. Tinkering at the margins is not going to root out the problems of patronage and cronyism endemic to the current patchwork system of levee boards and the wasteful activities of some of them which spend tons of money on activities other than flood protection and maintain what is there badly.

Don’t think that Washington will take seriously any tantrum that Landrieu will throw by trying to keep the Senate in business. Republicans and many Democrats will be infuriated by her actions and her sinking influence in the Senate will strike a new nadir.

(And don’t think the rest of the nation hasn’t noticed that Louisiana needs to prove itself worthy of national largesse.)

The federal government perfectly reasonably will hesitate to commit any additional funds of the American people to a state when it cannot be certain that the monies invested either will be used efficiently or to maintain adequately assets built thereof. While Landrieu’s idea of allowing the state to collect more from offshore drilling dedicated to levee improvements is not automatically bad, it is a total nonstarter until the federal government can be assured the money will be spent wisely.

State Sen. Walter Boasso’s bill is a good starting point for the next special session, which should receive Blanco’s unqualified backing, and then Landrieu needs to stay out of the way of the grown-up Republicans to create a mechanism, maybe by altering the current royalty arrangement to make it like that of other states’, that will ensure state-of-the-art flood control without politics getting in the way. Again, it’s another dose of tough love that Louisiana needs.

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