According to a CNN.com article, "White House announces billions for levees," the U.S. Government plans to spend billions rebuilding (or should I say, "building") the New Orleans levee system. One of the reporters asked Donald Powell (President Bush's recent appointment for overseeing the reconstruction, who is currently the Chairman of the FDIC) whether the new system could withstand a category 5 hurricane. The answer was plainly a hedge, and openly recognized as such.
Maybe it would be more useful to ask whether the system would withstand a category 4, like what Katrina was when it hit the Louisiana coast. If not, then there's no point in trying to rebuild New Orleans.
Other useful questions would be...
- How serious is the Executive Branch about making this project work?
- Is the safety of the people of New Orleans more important to them than the political advantages to be gained from parcelling out huge contracts to cronies?
- Do we believe that spending a few billion dollars is worth it to strengthen the levee system so that it can actually help save hundreds of billions in reconstruction costs (not to mention incalculable personal grief) in the future?
- If we don't believe this, why don't we simply designate the city as raw wetlands, spend the money to help people resettle elsewhere, and forget about Mardi Gras?
- If we do decide to rebuild the levee system, and we can't reasonably certify its effectiveness against a major hurricane, will we still be inclined to twist arms to get people to reinvest there?