To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

New Orleans Dispatch

I just spent three days in New Orleans on business and cannot believe how much the city, two years after Katrina, is utterly changed and unrecovered. I had been there four times before and its people, freewheeling atmosphere and food had a very warm place in my heart. While other cities became less fun and more regulated, New Orleans was a breath of fresh air, a place where carrying an open bottle is not a crime and freedom and fun were not only allowed, they were a mandate. L'aissez les bon temps roulez could be a libertarian slogan, or at least a TtP slogan.

The city always had a grimy seediness, but in the past that was overshadowed by the festivities. Now, in New Orleans, the party is over, leaving the grimy seediness as the defining attribute of the city. It is nothing less than heartbreaking for anyone who thought the Big Easy was an important, sacred part of America.

The tragedy of New Orleans includes examples of just about everything that is wrong with big government. From the Army Corps of Engineers redirecting the Mississippi and then building crummy levees, to the US providing and subsidizing flood insurance where no private sector company would insure, to "heck of a job" FEMA blowing its response then throwing billions out of guilt at trailer parks and individuals, to the Louisiana legislature redirecting federal recovery money into pork for senseless pet projects (read this and weep), the whole thing is a textbook example of government gone amok while serving its citizens terribly.

Sadly, the people of New Orleans talk mostly today about getting government hand-outs and subsidized flood insurance. Read the Times-Picayune for a taste of the zeitgeist. Today's page one headlines include: "Governor to Ask Feds for Up to $4 Billion" and "Trailer Dwellers Get Last Chance." Throw in another story about corrupt Congressman William Jefferson's indictment and an oil company's bid to seek $1 billion in "Gulf Opportunity" bonds, and that just about sums up the news in New Orleans today: hand-outs, pork and corruption.

The tourists are gone, and the French Quarter is empty. I had a hard time finding a place that was open for lunch and I breezed into an empty Cafe du Monde for the first time as it usually had a 30 minute wait. There is a pall over this empty, onetime lively city. Yet big government money is flowing into it like a fire hose. It just is not helping New Orleans achieve its prior greatness.

For the best song ever on New Orleans, listen to Lucinda Williams' Crescent City. Here are the lyrics:

Everybody's had a few
Now they're talking about who knows who
I'm going back to the Crescent City
Where everything's still the same
This town has said what it has to say
Now I'm after that back highway
And the longest bridge I've ever crossed over Pontchartrain
Tu le ton temps that's what we say
We used to dance the night away
Me and my sister me and my brother
We used to walk down by the river
Mama lives in Mandeville
I can hardly wait until
I can hear my Zydeco and laissez les bon temps roulez
And take rides in open cars
My brother knows where the best bars are
Let's see how these blues'll do in the town where the good times stay
Tu le ton son temps that's what we'd say
We used to dance the night away
Me and my sister me and my brother
We used to walk down by the river