Saturday, April 01, 2006

Louisiana, Levees and Liberty

So, the news has come down, that fixing the levees is going to cost more than they thought. Suddenly, Louisiana is faced with a shortfall of around $2.9 billion. Without this money, the levees around New Orleans cannot be fixed before the next hurricane season. The only good news about this is that it is more bad news for Bush. It is also yet more trouble for the long suffering people Louisiana. These problems, it appears, are caused by the fact that the Corps of Engineers cannot do their sums.

This brings to mind the words of a wise man, Mike West. Mike's Album Home has a song on it about the Corps. The chorus of the song goes:

folks round here got the fear of god
everybody say lawdy lawd
there's only one thing we fear more
that's the corps of engineers


It seems that this fear of the Corps is well founded. Now, if this bad news about the levees was not bad enough, it seems that there is still the rather thorny issue of the money that the State allegedly owes the FEMA fools. It turns out, to add insult to injury, the State of Louisiana is expected to help pay for the wastefulness and incompetence that FEMA has inflicted upon this area. Various numbers have been bandied around about how big the bill will be, but a recent story in the Baton Rouge Advocate suggests that the State will have to pay FEMA around $1 billion. Given that the entire budget for the State next year is projected to be around $20 billion, this is quite a major bill (to put it mildly!).

People often forget that Louisiana (or at least parts of Louisiana), unlike most other States, has a very distinct culture. This arises due to the heritage of the Acadian and Creole peoples of the State. Although so-called 'Cajun' food has now become another commodity that is parodied in restaurants and strip malls around the world, there are several distinct and wonderful cuisines, in Louisiana. Analogously, music from the State of Louisiana has also become more widely known. What people fail to recall is that these are just manifestations of the vibrant Francophone culture that belongs to this State. The circumstance is again astutely described by Mike West in his song Americans (I recommend reading the words to this song). In this song, it is sagely observed that,

my grandfather he explained
about us and them
how there are them you can trust
they are like us
they are not American

In the face of the federally caused fiscal horrors described above, perhaps it is time that this distinct and unique society attempt to assert itself. I believe that Louisiana should seriously consider leaving the United States!

Whenever I mention this idea, people recoil in horror. They often mutter things about 'last time' (i.e. the civil war). With a little careful reflection though, the idea may not be as silly as it appears.

Louisiana sends $5 billion a year to the Federal government in oil royalties. The Federal government returns just $39 million a year (details can be found here). Other States get a much higher rate of return. If Louisiana were independent, all that money would be available to help rebuild the levees. Oil and gas is not the only area in which Louisiana would stand to gain. Most of the coffee in the U.S. is imported through the Port of New Orleans. In addition, grain from the Mid-West has to be exported down the Mississippi river, as there is not sufficient railway capacity. Both of these commodities could be taxed by Louisiana. Of course, there are also numerous other ways that the U.S, depends upon Louisiana. These could all be sources of revenue for the independent State, or used as bargaining chips in negotiations to ensure that the State got a better deal.

There would be other advantages to this proposal too. Not least, Louisiana could bring home its troops from Bush's ridiculous and illegal war in Iraq. Louisiana would also be in a position to negotiate allegiances with other countries. Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, the Canadian Provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia and perhaps even the European Union would be natural and powerful allies.

Governor Blanco has already showed a willingness to play hardball with the feds. She is currently threatening to prevent the sale of Oil and gas leases. It is unclear how much success this move will have. However, if Louisiana were to seriously explore the option of leaving the U.S., the Federal government would be forced top pay attention. Even the moronic Bush would realize that losing and entire State would not look good as a legacy in the long view of history. So, "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternity pour La Louisiane" shall be my song for today.

The CP

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