John Stossel, on pork in the wake of Katrina:
posted on September 27, 2005 11:20 PM
The government’s responsibility, though, dwarfs anything done by criminals. To start, the federal government invited disaster by offering cheap insurance. That encourages people to build on the coasts. I’m embarrassed to admit I once built a house on a beach in Westhampton, N.Y., because government insurance guaranteed I couldn’t lose. When a storm washed my house away, government paid me for my loss. It would have covered me again and again had I rebuilt. (I sold the land.) Government insurance is truly an insane policy.
Then came the bureaucratic obstacles. While New Orleans hospitals had no electricity, the U.S.S. Bataan sat just off the coast, equipped with six unused operating rooms and hundreds of hospital beds. Its commander said she could do nothing because she hadn’t received a signed authorization. It’s reasonable to worry about getting the armed forces involved in law enforcement, but where’s the threat to the Constitution if, in the middle of a disaster, a Navy doctor saves your life?
The deadliest government mistake was made by Congress. The Army Corps of Engineers had said it wanted $27 million to strengthen the levees protecting New Orleans. Congress said no, though our can’t-spend-your-money-fast-enough representatives did appropriate more than that for an indoor rain forest in Iowa.
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, blamed the president. “The president could have funded it,” she said.
Someday, she should read the Constitution. Only Congress can appropriate federal money.
It’s a reason Americans shouldn’t filter so much money through Washington. Louisianans don’t need Iowa rain forests, and Iowans don’t need levees in Louisiana. Maybe the people who want to live in New Orleans should have to pay (through private enterprise or local taxes) the special costs of its exposed location — or live elsewhere. If all local projects, essential and whimsical, were paid for with local taxes, competition among states and cities would force them to become more efficient.