I think it’s worth emphasizing that the Federal government’s proper and necessary role in this situation is to do things like get those FEMA maps done and get to work on an effective levee system. Failure to do those things certainly is and will impede the rebuilding process–people don’t know where they an rebuild and don’t want to put money into a New Orleans unprotected by levees. I don’t want to get too partisan here, but it does seem as if the public (in New Orleans and nationally) could be getting more information about progress in those areas, assuming there is some.
On the other hand, I’ve thought from the day I first heard about it that Congressman Baker’s plan to have the Feds buy up damaged property in New Orleans was a boondoggle that should go nowhere. It’s simply not good economics or morally fair to give Americans the idea that the Federal government will always come along and bail them out of any kind of adversity. The Federal government doesn’t have enough money to do that–it already has a huge debt load and an annual deficit. And if people assume they will be bailed out, they will do stupid things–like building in spots almost certain to be wiped out eventually by floods, hurricanes and, yes, earthquakes. Regrettably, the people of New Orleans could have and should have seen this coming. Anyone who has spent any time there and read the Times-Picayune has probably read pre-Katrina stories about the threat of flooding the city was under. So anybody who owned property there and didn’t buy flood insurance has no moral right to ask for a bailout IMHO. I certainly buy earthquake insurance in CA (and flood insurance in AZ where rare torrential summer downpours can bring flash floods down the mountainsides).
An appropriate program of rebuilding demands (1) that government mitigate the hazards as much as possible (FEMA maps, levees etc) and (2) that people put their private money to work with a realistic understanding of the risks (future flooding and so on) and potential rewards (aside from the pleasure of living in a place like New Orleans pre-Katrina, there’s money to be made in the triad of oil, the port and tourism). But my own assessment is that if government does do its part, the risks are controllable (through engineering and insurance) enough and the rewards great enough that New Orleans WILL be rebuilt rapidly. I do think, however, it’s time for those in high office to stop whining and squabbling and get to work removing obstacles.