September 18, 2007

Allow Me to Whine

…about Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour:
During a recent meeting with the Sun Herald, Barbour went off on what he called the "whining" in Louisiana that Mississippi got too large a share.

"One of the things they used was that the number of schools in Mississippi that were still closed by December in 2005 compared to the number of schools that were closed in Louisiana was just a tiny fraction," Barbour said. "Of course it was, because we had all our schools back open. We worked our tails off. We had all our schools back open before New Orleans had one back open."

And though Mississippi schools were open, children were, and are, attending in temporary trailers used as classrooms because their schools were destroyed.

"So what's the idea? Are they supposed to punish us for getting our schools back open quickly? That's their mentality: 'Somebody do this for me,'" Barbour said. "Down here, people said, 'We're going to do this for ourselves, and we hope you'll help us,' and that's what happened."

But, Barbour said, he doesn't bear any ill will toward New Orleanians.

"New Orleans was a very important part of many people in Mississippi's lives," Barbour said, noting he "went to New Orleans seven times" during one semester of college which, "is probably why my grades weren't what they should have been."
I missed this. It was published two weeks ago. I can’t believe that two years after the storm, someone can say these things. On the anniversary, no less.

First – and I know Gov. Barbour is aware of this – Katrina’s destruction along the Mississippi coast was different from the destruction wrought in the New Orleans area. After the storm, Mississippi was faced with a recovery mission. The New Orleans area was faced with a recovery along with a repopulation mission. Due to the nature of the damage along the coast, Mississippians were able to return to their communities comparatively faster than New Orleans area residents. Mississippians were able to get their schools up and running faster because Mississippians were *there* to get their schools up and running.

I do not doubt that the good people of Mississippi “worked their tails off” to get their schools rebuilt. How blessed they were that their tails were there to be worked off.

Second, as far as the “We're going to do this for ourselves” attitude, bravo! But that’s real easy to say when your recovery plan is fully funded from the beginning. I commented on this last January:
For perspective, consider that in January 2006, one year ago, the first round of Community Development Block Grants was given out.

Mississippi received $5,058,185,000.

Louisiana received $6,210,000,000.

Mississippi got 86.8% more in that first round of CDBGs than it has paid out more than halfway through their housing plan. If we had paid out at the same rate at Mississippi’s lower average payment, we would have used up over half (61%) of our first allocation. In fact, assuming our average calculated payment remains consistent at $82,581, we will completely use up that first allocation about three quarters of the way through our total applications.

What is my point? Though Mississippi and Louisiana are using similar grant programs, their progress can not be similarly compared. Louisiana’s destruction was greater in scale and complexity and was grossly under-funded at the offset.
My point remains valid today. As of September 13, 2007, Mississippi has given out $1.1 billion in 13,837 home assistance grants, which represents 87 percent of its eligible households. That comes to about $79,500 per household. At that rate, Mississippi will need $1.26 billion to *fully fund* its home assistance program.

Mississippi received almost four times that much in January 2006. Let me repeat: Mississippi received almost four times more money than it needed to fully fund its home assistance program. That meant the state could plan to use the other $4 billion or so for other recovery projects starting in January of 2006.

As of this month, September 2007, Louisiana is still fighting to fully fund its home assistance program. Our average benefit calculated is less than Mississippi’s at $68,000 per household. And we have far, far more recovery projects to consider other than home assistance, as well as repopulation concerns.

So, the governor of Mississippi tells us that we have a “somebody do this for me” mentality. DIY, indeed:
Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute for Government, notes the irony of any state being envious of Mississippi.

"For once in Mississippi's life, I think we were in the best position to take advantage of who we are and the people we know," Wiseman said. "It was how the stars were aligned - we had as our governor the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has helped a number of powerful people in Washington. We had the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a powerful former majority leader.

"For once, we were standing first in line. Gov. (Kathleen) Blanco was a Democrat coming before what was then (2005-'06) Republican-held (Congress) with a Republican president. She had to introduce herself at our family reunion."
Does this mean Mississippi had a “some politician do this for me” mentality?


Anonymous said...

It strikes me that people seemed not to understand the requirements and financial demands that rebuilding in a large urban metropolis like New Orleans is significantly different than meeting the needs of much smaller urban and rural centers. It is far easier (not to say easy) to rebuild a school system that includes a few schools than it is to reinstate a large system that has to address the needs to a diverse and changing population such as in New Orleans. That does not let New Orleans politicians off the hook, but the comparisons I have seen are overly simplistic. Plus, as you said, MS got a proportionately larger piece of the pie faster.

Michael said...

OK, I re-read the article, and it looks like Trent Lott also used the word "whining" to describe his opinion about Louisiana...though he at least tosses a few crumbs in the direction of the Gret Stet Democratic Congressional delegation--geez, Lott's the "moderate" in this case. Makes me wonder if he and Barbour yanked the same "suggested phrases" from the same talking points memo floating somewheres around the inter-tubes.

The only whining that I really recall about the whole mess is the whining from wingnuts about the country should chuck the whole Gulf Coast, which began even before the rain ended. And it's not stopped since.

E.J. said...

Clearly, he's a puppet of the Bush Republican party.

How does it so easily escape people that while having just a slab left after a storm is no fun, I'd take starting there any day over starting with a home -- a whole fuckin' city for that matter -- soaked for weeks in rancid water (with all your worldly shit still right there in it and not swept out to the Gulf of Mexico). UGH!

And as always, you cometh correct with the stats!