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Harry Shearer

Harry Shearer

Posted: December 7, 2008 09:57 PM

What's Missing From Obama's Infrastructure Plan


At his Sunday news conference--the President-Elect will have had more of these get-togethers with the media before he's sworn in than the President-Reject has had in eight years--Barack Obama gave a few more details about his new New Deal program for massive federal spending for infrastructure. What caught my ear: his pledge that the program would go beyond "roads and bridges" to other programs with "long-term payoffs for taxpayers". That list included the now-familiar broadband Internet buildout, getting medical records into electronic form, school construction, and "making our economy more energy efficient."

Gee, that's the whole "progressive" shopping list for federal infrastructure--except for one nagging little thing. For those whose memories are short, here's a clue, from Saturday's Times-Picayune:


A long-delayed Army Corps of Engineers plan for protection against a Category 5 hurricane -- a storm as large as or larger than Hurricane Katrina -- will be delayed until at least June, and maybe longer, the project's manager says.


Further, the final document won't be a plan at all, but rather a menu of about two dozen alternatives for Congress to further study and debate, a recipe for additional delay.

Yes, the same Corps of Engineers that made (and ultimately took long-delayed responsibility for) crucial engineering and design mistakes that led to the 2005 flooding of New Orleans is now slow-walking plans to rectify its handiwork. And nowhere in President-Elect Obama's laundry list of infrastructure expenditures is a commitment to ramp up work on flood protection and coastal wetlands restoration for the area that supplies--sorry, Governor Palin--as much as 40% of this country's domestic oil production.

Friends of mine assure me that that little item is a stealth priority--"he doesn't want to rile up all the anti-New Orleans sentiment before he takes office"--that, like John Kerry, who never mentioned the Supreme Court during his campaign, New Orleans is an issue that this guy cares so deeply about he dare not mention it yet.

New Orleanians, always met with "why should we give you money so your corrupt politicians can hijack it?", have done their share, throwing Dollar Bill Jefferson out of office in a stunning election upset. Now what's Washington's excuse?