Skip to comments.Baker’s relief bill deserves try
Posted on 01/29/2006 6:51:06 AM PST by Uncle Sham
Political Horizons for Jan. 29
Bakers relief bill deserves try
By JOHN LAPLANTE
Published: Jan 29, 2006
Ford to City: Drop Dead, a legendary headline screamed in 1975, when a president refused to bail out New York City from financial disaster.
Change the president and the locale, and Louisiana hurricane victims might be forgiven for thinking the same thing.
After hemming and hawing for months about U.S. Rep. Richard Bakers home-buyout bill, and never really saying what he had against it, Bush brushed it aside last week.
Only after aides revealed his opposition did Bush grant a one-paragraph explanation. It amounted to three things: Dont create more bureaucracy; we already gave you people lots of money; and Louisiana doesnt have a plan.
Baker and Gov. Kathleen Blanco countered the Baker bill is so important it amounts to the plan.
Blanco said she only really controls $6.2 billion in recovery money that will be stretched far too thin to aid owners of 200,000 destroyed or damaged homes.
She said opposing bureaucracy is an odd argument for any federal officials to make.
What she should argue is that Bakers bill is a plan for people, not politicians.
Yes, the bill would set up a new bureaucracy called the Louisiana Recovery Corp., but this is not an open-ended promise to hand out money to politicians or write checks to the idle.
The LRC is supposed to be a hard-nosed business proposition. It would pay willing homeowners some, but not all, of the equity in their homes.
If they have a mortgage, the agency would pay it off, giving lenders back some, but not all, of their investment.
The agency would clean up the property and, working with local interests, market it to investors for redevelopment.
The LRC should take some decisions from politicians and give them to homeowners. They could take less and get on with their lives or keep their property in hopes of working out a better deal some other way. The agency would not take land against the owners will.
The corporation could transform many homeowners from helpless victims to people with some hope for the future. It could block a wave of foreclosures that might wipe out tens of thousands of families finances.
It could help head off statewide economic stagnation and spur speedy, organized recovery for communities that must come back for the state to recover.
Baker said hes not giving up. He sees support in both chambers of Congress and says he has passed significant legislation over Bushs objection before. But the opposition of a president whose party controls Congress is a major setback.
In fairness to Bush, Louisiana leaders made it easy for him to so casually shrug off the bill.
Our U.S. senators tried to grab $250 billion on sympathy instead of catalogued needs. The governor and Legislature found money for political projects during the crisis and so far have done little to adjust state government to the vastly different needs. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin famously made blackness, not prosperity, his top goal.
Some Louisiana leaders also exude an air of entitlement, even arrogance, demanding Washington immediately turn over as much taxpayer money as the state demands.
The Baker bill is not another toy for Louisiana politicians to play with or a well-intentioned program for them to screw up. It should actually bypass the politicians by dealing mostly with residents and bankers and developers.
Bush would appoint the managers of the agency, with Blanco suggesting only two. The U.S. treasury secretary would have final say over how much money the agency can borrow.
The bill is founded in Bakers long expertise in the complexities of housing finance and the federal governments long interest in affordable homes as a big part of the American dream.
Bakers bill also is complex and in some ways unprecedented, and who knows how wily politicians, lawyers or speculators might try to abuse it?
Baker says he is willing to compromise. He should be. Louisiana is asking the nation to take a huge risk by borrowing up to $30 billion. Limits and controls are appropriate to minimize the chance of abuse.
Risks and reservations should not sink the bill without a proper airing.
The idea is worth more than months of foot-shuffling and a sudden brush-off by the president.
The 200,000 families that might directly benefit from it, and the 4.5 million Louisiana residents affected by their states continued crisis, deserve a hearing.
John LaPlante is Capitol bureau editor for The Advocate.
I don't think Pres. Bush is the only one who thinks La. does not have a plan; I don't see Congress jumping on the bandwagon either. La. hurt their credibility big time when they offered up the $250 billion request.
John Kerry had a plan too.
Did Blanko borrow one of John Kerry's plans? He seems to have had an abundance of them.
And here lies the problem. Take the real estate in the 9th Ward. The current levees could not even stand up to Category 2 conditions. What is the point of bundling up that real estate for redevelopment if it is just going to get flooded again?
And even if we were to build Cat-5 levees, the entire region is subsiding - so they might be back to Cat-3 in a few decades.
And that does not even address the corruption in levee construction that apparently contributed to failures. We could spend 30 billion to make supposed Cat 5 levees just to have them fail because of shoddy construction because the Levee Commission gave a contract to a hack.
So Blanco and company have a plan for buying up this real estate. But the political pathologies that magnified the scale of this disaster are still in place. And until the people of Louisiana get rid of their corrupt hack politicians, there will be resistance to sending a hundred billion more dollars there.
I hate to be so blunt, but that is the overwhelming feeling I get from those I talk to about this.
If several billions haven't yet corrected the problems, then something is seriously wrong with the way the money is being used.
As as long as I'm being mean here---I'd love to see all the refugees lounging around at government expense return to Louisiana and be made to help rebuild over there.
This plan had wide-spread Congressional support before the holidays but was held up by the Bush Administration.
Why should we trust the same people (the incumbent politicians of Louisiana) who helped create this mess (and who raked off large sums for their own pockets in the process) to do anything correct and legit about fixing the mess?
(Ray Nagin among others should be in jail or defending themselves in court--having 1700 police on the rolls drawing salaries when there are only 1000 actually on the force is a crime in most places.)
We will get rid of them at the very first opportunity I can assure you of that. Nagin and Blanco for starters are toast. Although I think their problem is more incompetence then corruption it's a start.
The plan her governess wants is a Blanko Checko for Blanko signed by US government
The Baker bill passed the House committee easily to be moved on. It was held up by the White House. So it did indeed have some congressional support. If the president wants to say he doesn't like the plan thats fine. But to say Louisiana didn't have a plan is just not being informed on the subject.
In other words, trust us, we represent the people's interest.
So the people too stupid to buy incredibly cheap FEMA flood insurance are supposed to be bailed out?
Oh, I don't think so...
And you can bet Blanco and company have a plan: Screw the American taxpayer. Again.
As everyone else in areas of the country that are hit by acts of nature such as tornadoes. I haven't seen any government "plans" for any of the people who lose homes and lives all over the country and don't have 24/7 coverage of the "poor" who were told, at least, 3 days in advance to GET OUT and take, at least, a weeks worth of medicine, clothes, water, food, etc. and DID NOTHING.
Go to snopes.com. Type in the search box "New Orleans Police". Click on the first link that comes up. I haven't seen anything anywhere that verifies this story. If it's verified by an investigation then throw the book at them. Until then it's nothing but a rumor.
That's stupidity, not corruption. There is a difference you know.
I think this is what the Republican plan is. Instead of all of Louisiana, I think it should be in devastated areas and areas that will better remedy soil erosion (especially coastal). This plan will better suit black New Orleans Democrats who never had adequate representation and could "transform" Louisiana with better representation.