Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Tale of two Louisianas

Though it isn't really what I mean to write about, I feel like I need to start this with a defense of why so much of the right is correct to place blame on Obama for the cleanup of the BP oil spill. It is correct that BP, and not Obama, caused the spill. Last I checked only Al Gore believed Bush caused Katrina, but the cleanup efforts to it were still viewed by the media as his fault.

Lets engage in a little thought experiment. Lets say you live in a neighborhood with a bunch of houses very close together. Bob is a chain smoker and he smokes in bed and causes his house to catch fire. You call the fire department and are told "Don't worry, Bob will have to pay for any recovery costs." So the fire department never responds and 12 houses end up burning to the ground. A subsequent inspection finds that even if the fire department had come out and assessed the situation, the prevailing winds made it highly unlikely they actually would have stopped the fire. Is the fire department negligent? Of course they are. Even if it ends up they couldn't have done anything, they should have assessed the situation before rather than after, as it is they put the other houses at risk that the fire could have been stopped and they never bothered to find out. I'll note, I'm giving Obama the benefit of the doubt and accepting that if he had responded more quickly the Fed couldn't have done anything to fix the spill.

But the situation is actually ever more interesting than that, and that's what caught my attention. In the case of a natural disaster hitting a state the state bears primary responsibility for the mitigation and cleanup. The evacuation plan for the city of New Orleans was not used, Kathleen Blanco did a terrible job mobilizing her National Guard and refused to allow the federal government to take control of them at least as late as 15 days after landfall (which I actually believe was the correct decision, but you can hardly blame the President for actions taken by a National Guard whose control he was not given) and disallowed at least the Red Cross from entering the city of New Orleans. In spite of all this, though, the poor response in Louisiana (note I don't mention Mississippi, they somehow managed in spite of Bush) was Bush's fault.

In the case of an oil spill on the coastal shelf the State has no authority to act. This cleanup and prevention is entirely within Federal Jurisdiction, but the new Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, is itching to take over mitigation for his state anyway. He has requested on May 11th permission to dredge part of the coastline to build an artificial reef and block oil from hitting the coast. I'll note I'm not sure it's a good idea, but it ought to be a state matter and Obama has had 15 days and hasn't given a response at all. This, though, is entirely BP's fault.

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