Wednesday, October 12, 2005

If You Build It, Will They Come?

janeboatler pointed me to this yesterday:

Lobbyists representing transportation, energy and other special interests dominated panels that advised Louisiana's U.S. senators crafting legislation to rebuild the storm-damaged Gulf Coast, records and interviews show.

The Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act — introduced last month by Louisiana Sens. Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat, and David Vitter, a Republican — included billions of dollars' worth of business for clients of those lobbyists and a total price tag estimated as high as $250 billion.

One advisory panel member who discovered that most of his fellow panelists were lobbyists called the resulting legislation "a huge injustice" to the state.

"I was basically shocked," said Ivor van Heerden, director of a hurricane public health research center at Louisiana State University. "What do lobbyists know about a plan for the reconstruction and restoration of Louisiana?"
And yet this morning, on Marketplace, the story was about businesses trying to lure workers back to New Orleans. Even Burger King is offering a $6000 signing bonus. But the very people likely to work at Burger King? The story ends with two of them, representing the whole, and they won't go back to New Orleans.

The poorest people in the city have found better lives elsewhere, or at least realized they've been let out of the basement of Omelas. All the planning D.C. lobbyists are capable of, and all the inducements the low wage employers can conjure, may not be enough to lure them back. New Orleans, don't forget, is the major port city in the U.S. We can't do without it for long. But if we can't get people back to run the fast food restaurants and grocery stores and gas stations and other low-wage operations that allow those dock workers to live near the port: what then? What solution do the lobbyists offer?

Will we find out in real life what a "day without a Mexican" would be like? And will we learn anything from it?

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