Thursday, February 26, 2009

F*** Josh Marshall

Still, the Louisiana coast might have survived another 1,000 years or more, Louisiana State University scientists said. But the discovery of oil and gas compressed its destruction into a half-century.

By the 1980s, the petroleum industry and the corps had dredged more than 20,000 miles of canals and new navigation channels from the coast inland across the wetlands. The new web of waterways, like a circulatory system pumping poison, injected saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico into salt-sensitive freshwater wetlands. Fueled by the advance of big business on the coast, the Gulf's slow march northward accelerated into a sprint. Link

While inland states enjoy 50 percent of the tax revenue from drilling on their federal lands, Louisiana gets back a mere $35 million of the $5 billion it contributes to the federal treasury each year from offshore drilling, or less than one percent. link

In other words, Louisiana has received almost nothing from the offshore drilling that has led to the destruction of its coast. Yet, hack journalists and bloggers have the gall to imply that Louisiana is a state full of ungrateful freeloaders. For over three years, we've heard it from the right, but now it seems to be even worse from the left. Lying liberally, Josh Marshall approvingly quotes Gail Collins:
Louisiana has gotten $130 billion in post-Katrina aid. How is it that the stars of the Republican austerity movement come from the states that suck up the most federal money?

Believe it or not, Marhall would inform us that Numbers Matter only a few hours later. When conservatives quoted that wildly distorted $130 billion, they usually said "$130B to Louisiana (or New Orleans) and the Gulf Coast," so that the statement was merely a gross exaggeration expressed in a misleading fashion. Liberals* seem incapable of meeting even that standard of accuracy. Like I said at Jeffrey's, I didn't need "The Daily Howler" to tell me what a hack Collins is, but I didn't realize that Somerby was right about Marshall. BTW, Bob Somerby also quoted Gail Collins' column today. Incomprehensibly, he failed to question to question the assertion that Louisiana had received $130 billion in post-Katrina aid.

When time allows over the weekend, I'll find a few links to demonstrate what a remarkably inaccurate statement that was.

*Referring to Josh Marshall, I certainly wouldn't claim Gail Collins as a liberal.

a-fucking-men. i emailed him angrily about this post earlier today. i lead tour groups that are better informed than he is. sadly it's not at all uncommon in the progressive movement to be completely blindsidingly stupid about anything related to louisiana or the gulf coast.
There is no doubt that La. has been screwed over by the federal response to Katrina, but you're barking up the wrong tree by complaining about $5 billion in offshore oil royalties (a federal law that is applied to all coastal states). If' La. got $5 billion (or whatever the sum would be, I'm trusting the sources) it would have been taken into account in federal reconstruction aid anyway. In other words, in your hypothetical world were all of the financial difficulties would be solved if La. got its "fair share" of the offshore oil revenue is preposterous. La. would STILL BE A WELFARE STATE. The state ranks 23rd in income and 42nd in tax collection. It has taken more federal money than it has paid in almost every year since this data have been collected. This isn't about "crapping on Lousiana" it's just a fact that all these southern states attack taxation and federalism, but take more form the federal coffers than they pay in. Mississippi is the same way. Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina. You should parse your justifiable outrage over Katrina response with general issues that many southern conservative states have: where they attack "the fat cats in Washington" and want to essentially drive down their local tax collection base (often through corporate "incentives" and property taxation, and, yes, giving huge breaks to Shell ro whomever to come and ruin its coastline). I said it before and I'll say it again, without federal help Louisiana would be at the mercy of a bunch of Good Old Boy schmucks in Baton Rouge and it would be far worse off (imagine that!) than it is.

There is plenty of data out there about states and their finances and how much each state received compared to how much it pays in. You'll find that Louisiana consistently ranks among those usual red, right-to-work, "pro-business" conservative states who bitch about federalism but take more than they put in.

For what it's worth: I have no problem with La. being on the short end when it comes to tax payments vs. federal monies received. (And this DOESN'T count disaster aid -- just general finances for repairing roads, covering people's medicaid and other forms of federal disbursements.) I like New Orleans and I think the country should do more to rescue south Louisiana since, as you say, the country has helped destroy the wetlands. But don't mix up issues here. Again: handing over oil royalties to the Good Old Boys in Baton Rouge would not solve anything. If La. was $5 billion richer, it still wouldn't cover the reconstruction costs, and the federal government would still be kicking in as it has for years.

La. is a poor state. It will be that way for a while. Deal with it, solve the problems, but don't say that giving baton Rouge control over $5 billion in federal mining rights the cure-all, -'cause it's ain't. It's just something to bitch about and complaining about those meddlesome fat cats in Washington.

As if there aren't any fat cats in Baton Rouge or New Orleans for that matter :)
Sorry, I'd also like to point out that this $5 billion figure. Where does it come from? Is that highest possible estimate? You wouldn't be getting close to that right now, I assure you. Alaska is another state that like the idea of drilling itself out of its welfare status -- its revenue has tanked because oil price and demand has tanked from the peak of $150 a barrel last year. It dipped recently to under $35 a barrel. So it's not like you describe it: like every year the state would get a check for $5 billion if only we applied the same rules to offshore that we do to drilling on land. No that sum would be a roller coaster ride. No state or country that casts its lot behind an oil economy does very well on this dependence. It's called "the paradox of plenty."

And finally: Who screwed up after Katrina? Michael Brown, appointed by W? Mayor RayNay? Why do you people keep voting for these morons?

As far as I can tell the only group that came out of Katrina smelling like roses was the Coast Guard, a federal entity. They were the ones pulling people off roofs. Don't crap on federalism.
Hi, it's me again. I want to thank you for raising this issue in any case. I read the Houma newspaper article with the $5 billion figure and it doesn't give a source. I read elsewhere that the entire Gulf of Mexico royalties are about $7 billion a year, so I don't think that jives with the claim that $5 billion comes form Louisiana.

This is a very complicated issue, but form my dum perspective I don't see how EXPANDING oil exploration (which is part of all this royalty sharing stuff -- it's all part of the DRILL DRILL DRILL contingents) would actually save wetlands and restore the coast. Since when did oil companies provide solutions for environmental restoration? Please. If it's about money, fine, but I don't think wrapping tying green ribbon around expanding drilling operations is genuine. It smells fishy to me. To me this sound like turning New Orleans into Port Arthur. Ever been to Port Arthur? It stinks. It's ugly. It's not wealthy. There's a price for drilling the crap out of your coastline.

I don't have time to address all of that but one quick point. We understand the massive costs of "drilling the crap out of your coastline" here.

South Louisianians have borne these catastrophic environmental and public safety costs to such a degree that our very existence is now threatened. All of this to the great benefit of the oil producers who have wrought the destruction AND, to a demonstrably disproportionate degree, the Federal treasury.

And after all of this, when we've reached our most critical point of injury at the hands of our colonial overlords, we somehow have to apologize for "sucking up federal dollars" or even being a "welfare state"?

You can see how this can be a bit irksome.
Alli, I'd be very interested in hearing if you get any kind of a response to your email.
Alli won't get a response to his email, unless it was a short remark about "trolling," which is Marshall's standard response to negative feedback.

Now that Bobby Jindal appeared in a truly big-time way, its open-season on Louisiana on the liberal blogs. Louisiana will be trashed the same way conservative hacks trashed Arkansas in order to get at Bill Clinton
I got a response to my (clumsy) email regarding the "so true" post, for what its worth.
"we somehow have to apologize"

I don't think that at all. No way. Poor states have a right, as members of a United Republic, to be helped. Louisiana is one of our 50 states. I don't want to cut it off, or demand that it reaches 1-to-1 parity with taxes vs federal monies received. What bothers me is the political leadership's rhetoric. What Jindal said in his response to Obama is disgraceful, IMO. The Coast Guard were the only heroes in the entire debacle. And they are a federal mandate, from the big wicked government. I just don't think fighting over the flow of funds is as important is fixing the problem. And as much as I don't trust FEMA or the Corps, I have less trust in Baton Rouge. FEMA can be fixed faster than the entrenched local interests. And more drilling = more wetland destruction, period. So that must be accounted for. Giving more breaks to the oil industry is not the answer!!!!
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