Donald Powell, the Gulf Coast recovery coordinator for the White House, had an op-ed in the Wash Post this morning on the “Baker bill” that would set up a revolving loan fund called the Louisiana Recovery Corporation to help New Orleans and surrounding parishes get back on their feet. There is no nicer way to say it than to say that Mr. Powell is either extremely dim-witted or else duplicitous. Volumes could be written refuting the nonsense in his column, but the upshot of it is this:
The administration’s position amounts to opposing the bill written by a conservative Republican; a bill that would set up a quasi-private corporation to promote the free market; a corporation that would recoup for the taxpayers a large portion of the original investment rather than just give the federal money away in the form of grants and irrecoverable appropriations; a REVOLVING loan fund, fergoshsakes, which indeed means the same money is effectively used over and over again so as to reduce the long-term impact on the Treasury; a loan fund the majority of whose directors would be appointed by President Bush and independent of supposedly corrupt political influence in Louisiana; a loan fund supported by each of the three living Republican former governors of Louisiana and by the only U.S. House Appropriations Committee chairman in decades to actually cut domestic discretionary spending (as opposed to merely cutting from the scheduled increase); all created by a bill that passed the key House committee by an overwhelming, bipartisan, 50-9 margin.
In its stead, the numbskulled Mr. Powell offers Community Development Block Grants that must be funneled through the very Louisiana state government that is supposedly so corrupt; in order to help property owners restore the value of some 20,000 homes out of the 235,000 or so homes that are right now unlivable (about two-thirds of which, at a much more effective dollar-for-dollar cost, would be helped under the Baker bill)… and, oops, I have to go to a meeting. More later.
For now, just note that not only are Powell’s (and the president’s) policy choices wrongheaded, but the column is riddled with misstatements and what certainly look like deliberate attempts to produce misimpressions of what the Baker bill actually does. In short, the Powell column is intellectually dishonest. And so is the administration’s approach to Katrina recovery.