Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Orleans, Drop Dead

I guess I’m really a hard-hearted person, but as a survivor of Florida’s Hurricane Charley, which tore my roof off and forced me to spend many days of back-breaking labor and many months of distress, I have no sympathy for the slobs and vultures in New Orleans who want everyone else but them to handle their problems. I agree with the sentiments expressed in the following articles, and I’ll go on to point out that the incident that sealed my disgust with these whiners was when they re-elected Mayor Ray Nagin, possibly the most incompetent politician in the U.S.A. Who could ever forget those hundreds of school buses sitting in pools of water as people died?

In southwest Florida, after facing four hurricanes in a row, there were many incredible stories of neighbors helping neighbors. Because of flooding, New Orleans obviously faced even worse problems than did Floridians, but the main stories to emerge involved terrible crimes, looting, finger-pointing, whining and the arrest of a courageous doctor who faced and dealt with an impossible situation while others fled.

The Big Easy's Billion Dollar Boondoggle
By Lawrence Kudlow, August 30, 2007, RealClearPolitics

So, the president and Mrs. Bush went down to New Orleans to commemorate the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Who knows? Maybe over a latte with leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, they discussed spending even more money down there. After all, everyone seems to be saying New Orleans needs more cash.

Here's a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?

I'll give you the answer because you'll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief).

That's right: a monstrous $127 billion. Of course, not a single media story has highlighted this gargantuan government-spending figure. But that number came straight from the White House in a fact sheet subtitled, "The Federal Government Is Fulfilling Its Commitment to Help the People of the Gulf Coast Rebuild." Huh?

This is an outrage. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP. That's simply unbelievable. And to make matters worse, by all accounts New Orleans ain't even fixed!

You might be asking: Where in the hell did all this money go? Well, the White House fact sheet says $24 billion has been used to build houses and schools, repair damaged infrastructure and provide victims with a place to live. But isn't everyone complaining about the lack of housing?

Perhaps all this money should've been directly deposited in the bank accounts of the 300,000 people living in New Orleans. All divvied up, that $127 billion would come to $425,000 per person! After thanking Uncle Sam for their sudden windfall, residents could head to Southern California and buy homes that are now on sale thanks to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and bid up the sagging house prices in the state.

The fact sheet goes on to say that $7.1 billion went to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the levees; that the U.S. Department of Education spent $2 billion on local schools; and that the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries has awarded more than $2.5 million (the pikers). The administration also provided $16.7 billion as part of the largest housing-recovery program in U.S. history.
So the billion-dollar question becomes: Where did the rest of that money go?

Meanwhile, according to an article by Nicole Gelinas at the Manhattan Institute, New Orleans has earned the distinct honor of becoming the murder capital of the world. The murder rate is 40 percent higher than before Katrina, and twice as high as other dangerous cities like Detroit, Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C.

Think of this: The idea of using federal money to rebuild cities is the quintessential liberal vision. And given the dreadful results in New Orleans, we can say that the government's $127 billion check represents the quintessential failure of that liberal vision. Hillary Clinton calls this sort of reckless spending "government investment." And that's just what's in store for America if she wins the White House next year.

Remember President Reagan's line during the 1980 campaign about how LBJ fought a big-government spending war against poverty, and poverty won? Well think of all this Katrina spending as the Great Society Redux. And it failed. I suppose the current Bush administration would like to label this "compassionate conservatism." But guess what? That failed, too.

Right from the start, New Orleans should have been turned into a tax-free enterprise zone. No income taxes, no corporate taxes, no capital-gains taxes. The only tax would have been a sales tax paid on direct transactions. A tax-free New Orleans would have attracted tens of billions of dollars in business and real-estate investment. This in turn would have helped rebuild the cities, schools and hospitals. Private-sector entrepreneurs would have succeeded where big-government bureaucrats and regulators have so abysmally failed.

This is the real New Orleans Katrina story. It's a pity that the mainstream media isn't writing about it. Call it one of the greatest stories never told.

Lawrence Kudlow is a former Reagan economic advisor, a syndicated columnist, and the host of CNBC's Kudlow & Company. Visit his blog, Kudlow's Money Politics.

The Battle of New Orleans
Published 8/30/2007 American Spectator (Excerpts)

Re: Quin Hillyer's Memories of a City:

”Conservatives are right, however, to raise serious policy issues as the rebuilding of New Orleans proceeds. The failure laid bare in New Orleans with Katrina was not, and is not, limited to, much less unique to, New Orleans. Decades of liberal policy proscriptions for America's cities -- cities run almost exclusively by Democrats -- have categorically proved themselves to be failures. Much is made, by Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and many others, of the post-Katrina problems of New Orleans' 9th Ward.

The conservative question should be: Where were these people like Mr. Edwards BEFORE Katrina? And why was the 9th Ward in such bad shape to begin with? The answer to these questions can be found in other cities in America -- like Barack Obama's Chicago or here in my own state of Pennsylvania in sections of Philadelphia or any number of other urban areas, including the city of Washington, D.C., outside the sections dominated by the federal government and the monuments. Millions were squandered on so-called "housing developments" that became squalid infestations of crime and drug addiction. The public education system was/is held hostage to greedy unions and mediocrity, millions of taxpayer dollars producing badly educated kids.

Corruption among bureaucratic officials, occasionally reaching right into various city halls, was/is rampant. And always the answer is to raise taxes higher, the money getting wasted on more bad policy almost as soon as it arrives in the coffers of big city X….

"New Orleans still needs help. We cannot afford to let it die." Really?

Mr. Hillyer seems to have illusions that New Orleans was some sort of a cultural Mecca. But no, the facts are: New Orleans is one of, if not the most, corrupt city in the nation. The police were quasi-criminals; the schools were out-and-out failures; the city government, when it was not run by thieves, was always incompetent; crime was rampant.

By any objective measure, New Orleans was (and is) a city that cannot govern itself. As for the culture of New Orleans, it was that of a sewer. Although he doesn't explicitly say it, you can just sense that a big part of the city's charm for Mr. Hillyer is its blatant corruption.

Even now, so much of the money -- both private and from the government -- that is being funneled down there is stolen and/or squandered. But all that money is not enough. It never will be. But why pour billions, maybe even a trillion plus dollars, into New Orleans, especially given the fact that the city itself is below sea level and is still sinking deeper?

If anything, the New Orleans recovery money should go to protect the area's port facilities and oil refineries which serve a national purpose, not to rebuild ghettos and reestablish its "culture."”
-- Peter Skurkiss
Stow, Ohio


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