The war in Iraq siphoned federal funds away from the re-engineering of the levees in New Orleans.

And by this, we of course mean that the funds were going to be used to finance a study, to be finished in 2008, of how to reinforce the levees so that they'd hold up against a Class 4 or 5 hurricane.

Other hurricane and flooding defense measures like rebuilding the wetlands seem to me to be rather marginal measures at best -- there isn't much of a difference between 20 feet of water and 18 feet of water, is there? The major issue was making sure the levees held up, and that seems to be a problem that had been neglected for a long time.

Josh Marshall blames Bush's tax cuts. I'll agree with him as far as federal functions go (e.g. the downsizing/restructuring of FEMA). But most of the money that the IRS collects goes back to the states, and I'm pretty sure that Louisiana is a net taker in this transaction. (States like California and Massachusetts tend to be net losers, at least if I remember correctly from numerous TMQ columns.) Is a task like rebuilding the levees something that can't be accomplished at the state level?

(Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder: are massive tasks like this possible at all? Cf. Big Dig.)


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