President Barack Obama finished up his 10-day vacation on Martha’s Vineyard yesterday by flying down to New Orleans where he gave a speech at Xavier University marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The President specifically linked the 2005 disaster with the region’s most recent troubles telling the audience: “Even as youve been buffeted by Katrina and Rita, even as youve been impacted by the broader recession that has devastated communities across the country, in recent months the Gulf Coast has seen new hardship as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.” Obama then rattled through all that his administration has done for the Gulf since the oil spill before concluding that the legacy of Katrina must be “not one of neglect, but of action; not one of indifference, but of empathy.”
But if the Obama administration has treated New Orleans with action and not neglect, with empathy and not indifference, then why does the latest survey from Public Policy Polling, a liberal polling firm, show that not only do Louisianans disapprove of Obama’s actions in the aftermath of the spill by a 61 percent to 32 percent margin, but a majority, 54 percent, believe that President George W. Bush did the better job of helping Louisiana through Katrina? The answer was given by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) shortly after the President’s Xavier speech when Jindal told reporters: “The experts all agree, we can end this moratorium before six months. Lets put our people back to work.”
The moratorium Gov. Jindal was referring to was President Obama’s job-killing oil drilling moratorium, which was put in place a full month and a half after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20. The experts Gov. Jindal was referring to was the Bipartisan Policy Center, which issued a report to the President’s national oil spill commission last Thursday recommending that the ban be lifted. Jindal continued:
I dont think they understood how the energy industry worked I think they really thought that the rigs could simply flip a switch. I hope [they] now have a better understanding of whats at stake, the jobs that are at stake. Until they came down here, they didnt understand the human impact in terms of the small businesses and jobs.
President Obama’s oil drilling ban is set to end on Nov. 30, but hopefully the White House will begin to show some understanding of how the Gulf economy works by ending the ban before that. But don’t hold your breath. President Obama made no mention of his oil drilling ban in his Xavier speech. And the mainstream media is intent on letting him get away with it. Brian Williams interviewed President Obama for NBC News last night and asked only two questions about the oil spill and another about the economy, but made no mention of the oil ban.
The President’s oil drilling moratorium aside, there’s another larger lesson from both Katrina and the Deepwater spill: the federal government can better defend the homeland domestically by returning power to states and localities. For far too long states have grown dependent on FEMA for their disaster response capabilities. As we wrote in April:
In the short span of 16 years, the yearly average of FEMA declarations has tripled from 43 under President George H. W. Bush to 89 under President Clinton to 130 under President George W. Bush. In his first year, President Barack Obama issued 108 declarations the 12th highest in FEMA history without the occurrence of one hurricane or other major disaster. In the first three months of 2010, President Obama has issued 32 declarations, which puts him on pace for 128 declarations for the year the sixth most in FEMA history.
There are two pernicious effects from this dependency: 1) states and localities lose their disaster response capabilities since they believe the federal government will bail them out: 2) FEMA becomes distracted by routine disasters instead of focusing their resources on truly national threats. Let’s save FEMA and its resources for the Hurricane Katrinas and place the burden of responding to routine natural disasters back in the hands of states and localities.
The Obama administration’s approach to the fallout from its oil drilling ban illustrates why that local approach is a better one. Gov. Jindal explained: “In the beginning, the administration suggested people file BP claims with unemployment claims. We made it clear that people want to go back to work.” Less dependency. More work. The Obama administration must end the oil ban and let Louisiana heal.