PORK GUMBO

By Veronique de Rugy, 10/07/2005, research scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
Forwarded by Jerry D. Johnson

Louisiana lawmakers have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone. That's more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief and on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers.

According to Senator Mary Landrieu (D, LA), author of the Louisiana bill, “Louisiana will be rebuilt by Louisianans. New Orleans will be rebuilt by New Orleans. And the Southern Louisiana will be rebuilt under the leadership of the people who call it home.” Yet, the bill waves the normal cost-sharing requirements to shift the entire cost to the federal government. In other words, Ms Landrieu is expecting federal taxpayers to foot 100 percent of the bill.

We are talking about a lot of money here. The $250 billion will cost $1,900 per American household. (This ignores the progressivity of the income tax which will make it much worse for some than others.)

That being said, I thought it would be informative to know what we are asked to pay for. A not so quick read of the 440 page bill soon demonstrated that the Louisiana lawmakers stuffed it with everything they could think of including many items having nothing to do with hurricane relief. The items include:

  • $35 million for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board
  • $8 million for direct financial assistance to alligator farmers
  • $12 million for the restoration of wildlife management areas
  • $25+ million to complete the Sugarcane Research Laboratory
  • $120 million for a laboratory, facilities and equipment at the Southern Regional Research Center
  • $28+ million for the restoration and rehabilitation of forest lands
  • $34+ million to support the research and education activities of the Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service
  • $19 million for the acquisition of first-responder mobile communications, deployable cellular towers and for equipment necessary for public Internet access in a 100-block area of downtown New Orleans using wireless-fidelity technology.
  • $25 million for assistance to firefighters
  • $100 million for early intervention, prevention, and disorder treatment for children 0 to 5 years of age
  • $100 million for early intervention, prevention, and disorder treatment for school age children.
  • $100 million for substance abuse assessment, early intervention, prevention, and treatment.
  • $600 million for early childhood education
  • $20 million for the establishment of development plans for development districts in the State of Louisiana
  • $160 million to implement the 2005 recommendations of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission related to the Federal city development in Algiers, Louisiana
  • $7 billion for rebuilding evacuation and energy supply routes on top of $5 billion for expansion of road and transit capacity.
  • $150 million for a small business loans fund and tax breaks on top of $50 billion in block grants.

But Sen. Landrieu and her delegation also asked for lost sales revenues for many commercial entities. Never mind that all such loses could have been covered by private sector business continuity insurance if the owners had the discipline to think ahead. For instance:

  • $27 million for lost timber sales revenues from the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area
  • $250,000 for dairy cattle losses of dairy producers
  • $11 million for livestock losses
  • $1,000 per head of cattle without any limitation on the maximum amount of payments that a producer may receive
  • $5 million for dairy spoilage losses
  • $5 million for a livestock compensation program to make payments for livestock-related losses

After Americans all over the country rushed to send billions to victims of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana legislators served us all with a federal tax bill that would fund yet more pork barrel spending in their state. That might make many Americans rethink their inclination to be generous next time around.