Pork barrels sank New Orleans

Pork barrels sank New Orleans

While liberals engage in the “blame Bush” Olympics over Katrina while offering precious few solutions to problems, the Washington Post reveals that while millions had flowed to Army Corps of Engineers projects in Louisiana, llittle of it went to flood prevention.

Many on the Left are claiming that it was the Bush administration’s reduction of FEMA budget and diversion of funds from natural disaster relief and prevention to counter-terrorism that resulted in the Katrina tragedy being as big as it is. That may not be the complete story.

In Katrina’s wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush’s administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state’s congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana’s representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

Sen. Mary Landrieu placed pressure on the Corps to do a $194 million overhaul of the Port of Iberia despite a study demonstrating there was no need for it. Congressional pork-barrel economics dictate otherwise. Same thing with millions of dollars spent dredging waterways for non-existent barge traffic.

Most glaring was the project to build a new lock, rather than repair the old one at a fraction of the cost, at the exact place where the Industrial Canal breached and flooded the city. The cost of the lock, which was under construction at the time? $748 million.

And now that Katrina has come through and devastated the city, the pork-barrel patriots don’t see water flowing into New Orleans, they see money.

Yesterday, congressional defenders of the Corps said they hoped the fallout from Hurricane Katrina would pave the way for billions of dollars of additional spending on water projects. Steve Ellis, a Corps critic with Taxpayers for Common Sense, called their push “the legislative equivalent of looting.”

Oh and as for Bush’s budget cuts endangering New Orleans: Bush’s budget request for New Orleans flood control projects was higher than the Clinton administration’s for its last five years.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli