Sunday, February 05, 2006

In comments on Rodger K's and Polimom yesterday, I made the comment that I thought Louisiana's situation was similar to that of a public sector union. When it comes to negotiating a private sector collective bargaining agreement, assets and leverage are everything. In the public sector, public opinion is far more important than leverage. It could be that I'm stating a debatable theory about labor economics as generally accepted principle, or it could that I'm overdoing the analogy.

But if you accept my basic premise, you can see why I agree with RK that it's time to stop begging, but vehemently disagree with him on the state imposed $1 a barrel tax on oil. On the first point, the state has made a big mistake in concentrating its efforts on pointing out the extent of the devastation and how badly the state needs help. That's important, but in concentrating on that, the state has put reconstruction spending in the category of welfare spending--at least for some people (before I get any angry comments: 1) I'm not arguing that that should be the case, I'm arguing that it is the case and 2)I'm certainly not arguing against programs that broadly get labelled as welfare spending, but the unfortunate fact is that they are low on most people's list of priorities). When you beg for help, help seems optional, at least to some people.

However, when you attempt anything that can be seen as extortion (holding Mardi Gras hostage, taxing people's gasoline), you lose public sympathy. That's why Blanco's,move on offshore oil leases may be the smartest thing the state's done yet. Unlike a tax on oil, opposing new drilling is something that other states routinely do. It is, however, using the little leverage that the state has to make the case that the state deserves, rather than needs, the money. In concentrating on how badly the state needs, rather than has the right to, federal money, La. has been putting the wagon in front of the horse. Maybe Blanco's getting it right.

Now that the state is finally doing something to call attention to how badly it's getting screwed on oil&gas revenue, will we finally start emphasizing the federal responsibilty for the levee failures, even if it is a shared or partial responsibilty. Like I said before, the state needs to be concentrating on the federal responsibilty for the damage and the raw deal that it's getting on revenue sharing to establish its right to federal money first. After that, it can establish the need, or the amount of the need, second.

note: above started Thurs 02/02 but interrupted until Sun. 02/05. Hence the reference to yesterday for something that occurred Weds.

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