Monday, September 26, 2005

"It's all vital. There's not anything in here that we would consider a wish list or pie in the sky. This is what we really believe is essential."

The title of this post is a quote from Louisiana Senator Landrieu commenting on Senate Bill S. 1765 (Summary) (To provide disaster relief and incentives for economic recovery for Louisiana residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Katrina) which calls for $250 billion in disaster relief just for the State of Louisiana.

The dollar figures that politicians are starting to bandy about are staggering. Mark Steyn noted in a recent opinion piecec that, "The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore put the figure in perspective: There are supposedly half-a-million families displaced by Katrina. For $200 billion, you could give every family 400,000 bucks, and they could build their own beachfront home virtually anywhere in America except next door to Barbra Streisand's pad."

A quick 5 minute review by Porkopolis (see Update 4 at Louisiana Senators ask for 1/4 of a trillion dollars for reconstruction ) found several questionable - at least using the 'vital' criterion Senator Landrieu has established- funding requests.

The Washington Post also found an issue that "...boggles the mind", according to Steve Ellisa water resources expert at Taxpayers for Common Sense. Mr. Ellisa went on to say, "Brazen doesn't begin to describe it. The Louisiana delegation is using Katrina as an excuse to resurrect a laundry list of pork projects."

The spending request in question is detailed in Sec. 501 (Pelican Commission) of the bill. Here's how the Washington Post describes it:

Louisiana's congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5

Louisiana Sens. David Vitter (R) and Mary Landrieu (D) tucked the request into their $250 billion Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act, the state's opening salvo in the scramble for federal dollars.

The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful "Pelican Commission" controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a "working group" dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests...

[On a related note...NBC's Lisa Myers writes about the competence of the people overseeing the levees: Is the Orleans Levee Board doing its job?, John Fund has an opinion piece: A Swamp of Corruption and WizBang notes that Things Are Getting Back to Normal in New Orleans.]

...Even before Katrina, Louisiana received more Corps funding than any other state, and that was less than $400 million a year. [See also: Army's engineers spent millions on Louisiana projects labeled as pork] ...

...The overall Corps budget for fiscal 2005 was $4 billion, and Corps officials have estimated that they could upgrade the New Orleans flood protection system to defend against a Category 5 storm for about $2.5 billion....

... We're going to fight hard for every dollar," Landrieu said. "We wanted to tell people the truth: It's going to be an expensive recovery, but worth the investment." ...

...Corps funding is only part of what Louisiana wants. The 440-page bill also includes $50 billion in open-ended grants for storm-ravaged communities and $13 billion for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, along with mortgage assistance, health care, substance abuse treatment and other services for hurricane victims. It also includes hefty payments to hospitals, ports, banks, shipbuilders, fishermen and schools, as well as $8 million for alligator farms, $35 million for seafood industry marketing, and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory that had not been completed before Katrina.

The bill did not specify where the money would come from, but several billion dollars a year would presumably flow from a provision allowing Louisiana to keep half the offshore oil and gas revenue paid to the federal government, a long-standing demand of the state's delegation...

The spending request details noted here would not have been possible if S. 1765 (Summary) were not made available as a public document. This brings up the question on reviewing the details for spending going on already for which the details were not provided in the bill, specifically H.R. 3673 which authorized $51.8 billion in disaster relief with very little details on how the monies would be spent.

Mark Tapscott, Director of The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy, offers a good idea on how all that spending could be tracked from a waste and abuse standpoint (HT: BizzyBlog via email):

Bush Should Apply FOIA [Freedom of Informaiton Act] in advance to keep Hurricane Katrina , Rita recovery spending honest.

This strikes Porkopolis as an excellent idea. A one-stop-shopping website managed by FEMA that details every expenditure in disaster relief.

Porkopolis believes this effort to cost no more than $1,000, if that. FEMA should already have this information. If they don't, someone should be put in jail. All it would take is extracting the information on expenditures and putting it into an Excel Spreadsheet on a daily basis.

Update: LSU Political Science Professor Jeff Sadow posts a must read piece, Stuck on stupid II: The Golden Rule



Post a Comment

<< Home