Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Right Problem, Wrong Solution

      Micah L. Sifrey, a liberal, comments in his Sept. 2nd post "New Orleans Blues" (no permalink):
      But here's why I'm worried: it isn't just government that's broken, it's the whole system for changing government that is broken too.

      I hope I'm proven wrong, but right now it seems to me that we no longer have the ability to change direction.  People may be turning, en masse, against Bush's failure to provide the most elemental of government services, public safety.  But that doesn't mean they will turn to the only available alternative, the Democrats, when the next congressional elections roll around 14 months from now.

      But here's the deeper problem.  Democrats have to stand for something other than "not Bush"--and there are many reasons to doubt they can.  The dirty little secret of Washington insider politics is that both parties benefit from the game.  I hardly trust the Democrats to clean up the mess left by the Republicans, do you?

      Right now, if the Democrats were a real opposition to Bush, they'd be howling at him for cutting $75 million for Army Corps of Engineers hurricane and flood control projects in the New Orleans district, while signing a $286 billion highway bill that included $231 million for a bridge to an island inhabited by 50 people in Alaska, which is to be named "Don Young's Way" in honor of the House Transportation Committee chairman. . . .

      At any point in the process, Democrats could have stood together and objected to a bill that directed tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to questionable projects (more than 6,000 by the count of Taxpayers for Common Sense) while shortchanging essential needs like New Orleans flood control.  But they didn't. . . .

      Why should we trust these Democrats to fix our broken government?  They're part of the problem too.

      Take out the anti-Republican propoganda, and you have a good point, but the solution isn't quite the one he thinks it is.

      There's three things wrong with Sifry's post, two minor.  The first minor one is that the President proposes, Congress disposes.  Bush has never vetoed a bill, so if the Congress had passed the appropriation for $75 million more, Bush probably would have signed it.  The second minor problem is that even if the money had been appropriated, it probably wouldn't have mattered.  There've been many stories over the last few days about how the levees and floodwalls were up to standard, and one of the ones tbat broke had only recently been upgraded (I'm tired, google them yourself).

      The third problem, the major one, is that government can't make choices anymore.  One of the reasons the hurricane hit as hard as it did was that the Mississippi Delta has eroded.  The delta eroded in part because of natural processes, in part, possibly, because of oil drilling, and in part because of previous flood control projects.  The Mississippi used to slow down at the mouth of the delta, and drop silt, but the flood control projects made the outlet flow fast, dumping the silt in deep water.  There have been proposals to reverse that, and let the river flood again downstream from New Orleans.  But that would screw things up for people who are using the river the way it is now.  So it doesn't get done.

      The government could have gone with bigger levees and better flood control, of course.  But that's opposed by people who don't like the enviornmental damage the present flood control causes.  So it doesn't get done.

      By the way, the Army Corps of Engineers was working on a plan to make NOLA safe from a category 5 hurricane.  They figured the contruction would last thirty (30) years.  The plan in the meantime?  Hope the new works aren't needed.  It would have been very expensive, and Congress didn't want to pass it.  Nothing got done.

      Little gets done because the country is full of special interest groups and single issue voters, and they exert enough leverage to stop decisions they don't like.  What we need is something like a national initiative/referendum system to allow the people as a whole to make big, tough decisions.  But to do that, we'd need a Constitutional Amendment.  The amendment would have to be proposed by two thirds of both houses of Congress, or a Constitutional Convention called by for by 38 state legislatures.  The special interest groups would object.  So it doesn't get done.

      Maybe one day, the majority will get so fed up, the yellow dog Democrats will vote Republican if the GOP candidate supports such a process, and the Dem doesn't.  Maybe one day, Republicans will vote for lefty Democrats if needed to get such an amendment passed.  But it hasn't happened yet.  Till it does, nothing will be done.



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