"We need the federal government's help," said Barbour. "At the same time, we are going to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money, and we are not going to try to use this as a way to gouge taxpayers."
Louisiana has 4.5 million people; Mississippi, 2.8 million. Louisiana's gross state product (as calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $152 billion last year, twice Mississippi's $76 billion. Even so, it is hard to imagine that the value of the damage done to Louisiana so far outstrips the damage done to Mississippi that Louisiana needs five to eight times the $30-$50 billion in federal aid that Mississippi needs.
Even the liberal Washington Post noted that Landrieu and Vitter's $250 billion, which would come on top of $62 billion already approved for hurricane relief, would give Louisiana more than $50,000 in federal aid for every man, woman and child in the state.
Perhaps the real secret behind the astronomical price Louisiana is asking of federal taxpayers was revealed by the Los Angeles Times, which reported Monday that Landrieu and Vitter put together advisory panels packed with Washington, D.C., lobbyists to advise them on their package. "The lobbyists and the entities they represent tend to be among the most experienced experts available who have direct, real-world knowledge of the situation," Landrieu spokesman Adam Sharp told the Times. "They are advocating for a position and for a client, but usually from a vantage point of expertise that can be very beneficial to us."
Sure. That must be why the plan includes $8 million for alligator farms, $23 million for sugar-cane research and a $750 million "teacher incentive fund" to pay rewards to teachers who simply return to their jobs. That's not to mention big-ticket items like the $50 billion in the proposal for Community Development Block Grants and the $40 billion to be used by the Army Corps of Engineers solely in Louisiana, which, as The Associated Press reports, is 10 times the Corps' current total annual budget.
Last week, under pressure from the conservative House Republican Study Committee to cut spending to offset the cost of hurricane relief, Speaker Dennis Hastert announced that the House leadership would seek significant new spending restraints. Among them are an across-the-board cut in discretionary spending for fiscal 2006 and a package of rescissions from already appropriated spending to be developed with the White House.
While they are at it, House Republicans should tell Louisiana's senators to take their bloated $250 billion aid plan and bury it in a bayou.