04/23/2008 02:48 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why the Feds Should Pay to Protect New Orleans -- And It's Not Me Saying So

No, it's John Barry, author of the seminal study of the 1927 New Orleans flood, Rising Tide, in an Op-Ed in, of all places, the LA Times (yes, they're still publishing). Barry is elucidating the historical view, in which "improvements" to the Missouri and Upper Mississippi River systems had predictable but baleful effects on the wetlands that act as New Orleans' hurricane buffer (along with the canals and pipelines of the energy companies that criss-crossed the wetlands as they disrupted the area's hydrology). Barry is not making the "you broke it, you fix it" argument relative to the Corps of Engineers' poor design and construction work on the "hurricane protection system" that catastrophically failed in 2005; his timeframe goes back decades.

Prediction: Such an explanation, while fascinating and provocative, is, like the Corps of Engineers failure, doomed not to ignite the political will to deal with the problem for one major reason: since members of both political parties, over decades, are involved in these decisions, nobody gets to score partisan points with this stuff. Therefore, it's ignored.