The Death of New Orleans and the Ameican constitutional
isomin at gmu.edu
isomin at gmu.edu
Sun Dec 11 20:25:17 PST 2005
2 quick points:
1. Given that the welfare state has been growing, not shrinking, in recent years (Bush's prescription drug plan was the biggest new entitlement since LBJ's time), I think reports of its death are, at the very least, greatly exaggerated. Perhaps even more significant, very few people in mainstream politics seriously question the power of the federal government to enact whatever welfare state programs it wants, even though they might oppose some of the programs on policy grounds.
2. "Devotees of federalism" have many different views on New Orleans and Katrina. However, as one such "devotee," I would note that Congress plans to allocate at least $200 billion for rebuilding and compensation purposes. If that money were simply divided up among the evacuees, they could get a whopping $200,000 each(assuming a total of about 1 million evacuees, as reported in the press). This plan would cut corrupt local and state officials out of the loop - as well as federal bureaucrats and private contractors - and would be perfectly consistent with even a very robust version of federalism. As for rebuilding New Orleans, the parts of the city that are of greatest significance to the national culture and economy - the tourist sites and the port/terminal - are already up and running or soon will be. Regarding the rest of the city, if local and state officials want to rebuild it, they need simply adopt economic and social policies attractive enough to entice the eva
cuees to spend their federal payments there rather than move elsewhere. If they fail to do so and New Orleans was reduced to the port plus the French Quarter because the evacuees preferred to be elsewhere, that would be no tragedy and indeed might even benefit the nation by providing a salutary lesson for other inefficient or corrupt state and local governments and by reducing the number of people who live in areas vulnerable to hurricanes. Obviously, one might want to quibble with the exact sum paid to each person and I would also argue that the compensation should be means tested. However, the basic approach of giving money to evacuees rather than to state and local governments or contractors strikes me as the right approach and as fully consistent with federalism.
Assistant Professor of Law
George Mason University School of Law
3301 Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA 22201
e-mail: isomin at gmu.edu
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