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But the levee was dry

November 28th, 2012 - 8:21 pm

The Associated Press reports that the Corps of Engineers, responding to the political pressure of the Katrina disaster, has built the Rolls Royce of flood protection for New Orleans and turned it over to municipal officials. However the town fathers have neither the capability nor the inclination to do anything but let it rot.

Engineers consider it a Rolls Royce of flood protection — comparable to systems in seaside European cities such as St. Petersburg, Venice, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Whether the infrastructure can hold is less in question than whether New Orleans can be trusted with the keys.

The Army Corps estimates it will take $38 million a year to pay for upkeep, maintenance and operational costs after it’s turned over to local officials.

Local flood-control chief Robert Turner said he has questions about where that money will come from. At current funding levels, the region will run out of money to properly operate the high-powered system within a decade unless a new revenue source is found.

“That’s been the eternal problem with flood-protection systems,” said Thomas Wolff, an engineer at Michigan State University. “You build something very good and then give it to local interests who are not as well-funded.”…

Congressional investigations found the old Orleans Levee Board more interested in managing a casino license and two marinas than looking after levees. Though the Army Corps of Engineers had responsibility for annual levee inspections, the local levee boards were responsible for maintenance. Still, the boards spent millions of dollars on a fountain and overpasses rather than on levee protection.

The local Corps of Engineers commander consoled himself by noting “this happens with corps civil projects all over the country. That’s the way it works in Iraq, Afghanistan. We have authority to build, but we have no authority to do operations and maintenance.”

But when money is tight where are you going to get it? Another AP article describes the scramble in Washington to keep the gravy train running even at the expense of everyone else.”It’s virtually every group for itself, scrambling to protect 100 percent of each tax break and government payout it now enjoys.”

the adamant positions that major interest groups are taking — and their insistence that sacrifices hit others, not them — underscore the difficulty Obama and congressional leaders face. The tougher a group talks to its members and the public, the harder it is to back down later when a bit of shared pain for everyone emerges as the only path to a deal….

AARP is equally firm in opposing changes to Social Security and Medicare, the mammoth “entitlement” programs that economists say must be reined in soon to avoid disastrously large deficits in future years …

It’s the same tune at universities and other institutions that rely on charitable gifts. They want to fully exempt the charitable gift deduction, which costs the government about $51 billion a year, from a role in the fiscal cliff talks …

And so it goes, group by group, tax break by tax break, payout by payout. Everyone is special. Everyone is deserving.

Everyone is deserving. Everything is priority. No one must be left behind. The world can’t be resource constrained. Yet still the problem remains: as it does for the levee managers of New Orleans. Where’s the money? It’s nowhere to be found. The problem with free stuff is that someone has to pay for it.

To its surprise the elite is discovering that the cupboard is bare.  Socialist President Francois Hollande is fending off critics alarmed at France’s rising unemployment and plummeting production by saying that his tax and spend cures haven’t had the chance to work yet.

Labour Ministry data showed the number of jobseekers in mainland France rose by 45,400, or 1.5 percent, to hit 3.103 million, marking the 18th consecutive monthly increase and taking the total to its highest level since April 1998.

France’s 1.9 trillion euro ($2.46 trillion) economy has been virtually stagnant since grinding to a halt at the end of last year, and many economists expect it to contract in the months ahead despite a surprise 0.2 percent rise in the third quarter …

“This run of negative figures on employment only increases our resolve to do something to reverse the trend between now and the end of next year,” Labour Minister Michel Sapin said in a statement.

A little more taxing and a lot more spending and she’ll be right. One can only wonder what Hollande will say when France doesn’t turn around. If it stays prostrate despite all the stimuli; despite all the tax hikes. Then somebody must be gumming up the works; some wrecker, some saboteur.

When things don’t work, there’s always someone to blame. The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson argues that Wal-mart should be morally and legally responsible for a fire in Bangladesh which killed hundreds of workers because because the practice of buying clothing on price inevitably means that someone in the long supply chain is not playing by union rules.

The Bangladesh factory supplied clothing to a range of retailers, and officials who have toured the site said they found clothing with a Faded Glory label — a Wal-Mart brand. Wal-Mart says that the factory, which had received at least one bad report for its fire-safety provisions, was no longer authorized to make its clothing but one of the suppliers in the company’s very long supply chain had subcontracted the work there “in direct violation of our policies.” …

But Wal-Mart neither pays its own nor takes responsibility for those who make and move its wares. For America’s largest private-sector employer, the emergency exits are always open.

And doubtless when factories are closed because they can’t sell at union prices or prices go up at the store it will be Walmart’s fault too. Thus everything always reduces to a problem in the system. Some ‘ism is always responsible for whatever goes wrong in the world — usually the ‘ism with money to payout. For too long we’ve lived in a world where tort lawyers could bill somebody. This sounds great until one day there’s no money to pay out. And the question will then be: who will they sue then? For surely it must be somebody’s fault that the gravy train has stopped; that there’s no more money for all the entitlements Obama has promised or for France to grow. It can’t not be anyone’s fault.

One No-Fault outcome to cumulative mismanagement is to simply scatter and flee. A State Senator proposed simply dissolving Detroit. To call the whole city off. The plan met with immediate opposition from those determined to defend the “jewels of Detroit”. The money would be found somewhere to allow it to limp along. There had to be an unraided stash somewhere.

Talking to Talk Radio 1270 host Charlie Langton, Detroit’s ex-communications chief Karen Dumas said she would not support such a plan.

“No, I don’t think that dissolution is the solution for the city of Detroit; I don’t,” said Dumas. “I think people … with every step we get more and more fearful … and maybe at some point that’s going to make everybody wake up and realize that we need to stop playing politics and come up with a solution for progress. “I don’t know at what point that’s going to happen.“

But maybe when they wake up they’ll finally realize there is well and truly nothing left. And at that point the whole desperate population of dependents will move like refugees in those old black and white newsreels from the Fall of France — and look for greener pastures. At least one thing will be funded to the last: politics and electioneering. Politico headlines: Democratic super PACs get jump on 2014, 2016.

It took Democrats a while to warm up to super PACs, but their glee over 2012 is — for now — eclipsing any moral qualms about big money eroding democracy, and they’re already busy at work courting their wealthiest supporters and planning even more ambitious efforts for future elections.

Shortly after Election Day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and top White House aides spoke at a three-day secret meeting of major Democratic donors and officials from liberal outside groups gearing up for 2014, POLITICO has learned.

They’re going to need a lot of Obama Phones for that. And you’re going to pay for them.

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