Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Federalism and Hurricanes

Andrew Sullivan links to an interesting article about Federal Government funding for levy construction (or lack thereof) in the New Orleans area. Apparently, the administration diverted federal funds away from levy construction in New Orleans to pay for military spending in Iraq. In light of the recent hurricane, which caused floodwaters to break those levees this looks like a potential political problem for the President.

The final paragraph of the article states:

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
This sounds remarkably like a breakdown in federalism. The local officials and their constituents in New Orleans are the ones being the most affected by the failure of the levees. They should be the people making decisions about levy construction and they should be the people to bear the political responsibility for raising taxes to pay for that construction. Andrew ends with the comment:

Yes, some would even blame Bush and the war for a hurricane. But blaming Bush and the war for the poor state of New Orleans' levees is a legitimate argument. And it could be a crushing one.
The supposed reason for the poor state of New Orleans’ levees is the Iraq War. Shouldn’t the management of the Iraq War be a higher priority for the President of the United States than the poor state of New Orleans’s levees? Shouldn’t the poor state of New Orleans’s levees be a higher priority for the local officials? Lets place responsibility where it belongs.

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