Tuesday, September 27, 2005

First WaPo now Investor's Business Daily: Start Saying 'No'

First this WaPo Editorial now this Investor's Business Daily Issues & Insights simply titled Start Saying 'No':

Hurricane Aid: How much do U.S. taxpayers owe Louisiana? Surely not the whole $250 billion that the state now wants. Congress needs to stand up for fiscal sanity.

Call us cheap or churlish, but our sympathy for the Pelican State's political leaders is starting to fade. Louisiana has been ravaged by two hurricanes, much of its largest city is in ruins and huge numbers of its people are without homes. All true.

But if America's spirit of compassion has no limits, its public purse does. The federal government is rightly helping Louisiana clean up, rebuild and guard against future catastrophes.

But it's not obliged to hand over hundreds of billions in aid with no questions asked. Nor is it morally required to build up Louisiana into something grander than it was before.


Democrats are seizing on the Katrina disaster as an opportunity to promote big government and lay guilt on Republicans. For their part, most Republicans seem resigned to take their lumps over the flawed federal response to Katrina and let the fiscal levees break.

Last week, Louisiana's congressional delegation proposed a recovery plan costing $250 billion. That's a lot, especially since it would be spent only on one state, not on the entire region hit by Katrina.

Sen. Mary Landrieu said Katrina was a "national tragedy" requiring an "unprecedented response." Sen. David Vitter cites the state's pivotal role in energy and the shipping of crops. "This is not some narrow parochial Louisiana matter," he said.

Indeed it's not. Any plan to spend $250 billion in federal money is obviously not just of parochial concern. That's why Congress should take a break from its guilt trip, cut out the pork and ensure Washington can control how the money is spent.

As introduced last week in Congress, the plan is a wish list with blank checks attached. Requests of the Army Corps of Engineers total $40 billion — 10 times its annual budget and 16 times what's needed to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 storm.

The bill also would let Louisiana decide which Corps projects would be built. It would hand out $50 billion in open-ended grants to communities and $13 billion to the state Transportation Department. Not to be left out, alligator farms would get $8 million.

Congress already has approved $62.3 billion in Katrina aid for the Gulf Coast and will no doubt have to allocate several billion more to cover damage from Hurricane Rita. So even by the standards of post-Katrina politics, Louisiana is starting to look a tad greedy.

Very few will come forward to make such an observation at this point. But more should, and Congress needs to muster up the courage, for once, to fulfill its obligations to American taxpayers.



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