Thursday, November 1, 2012

Amity Shlaes Calls Out Judas Christie

Amity Shlaes, a major league insider,  a Bloomberg View columnist,  director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the Bush Institute, and former CFR fellow, makes some solid points in a recent Bloomberg column.

Although she is a little too friendly to local governments (as opposed to the private sector) when it comes to resolving emergencies, she explains why the federal government gets dangerously bigger after each disaster, and makes clear that the reason New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Cato's big pal, was prancing around with President Obama was to get a bigger piece of government lucre:
Whew. That was the general reaction when President Barack Obama told waterlogged New Jersey that “we are here for you.” After all, these days, a president is expected to “be here.”

Federal rescue is the American Way. Being there starts with helping to clear the flooded metropolitan-area tunnels between New Jersey and New York. But the concept extends to bridges, roads and all the other infrastructure challenges up and down the Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy.

Such rescue seems like a no-brainer during crises.

Yet the misty deification of Washington as exclusive rescuer isn’t necessarily warranted. In fact, the U.S. suffers from a collective and politically induced amnesia that obscures the reality: There are many American ways to build infrastructure and manage it in emergencies. In the past, state and regional governments often managed disasters. Even businesses ran big domestic rescues...

Looking over American history, state or city authority in infrastructure was often the rule. Except during wars, state governments played a larger role in the economy than Washington. That relationship only reversed in the mid-1930s, with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. 
The reversal hasn’t always generated the greatest quality of work, or the greatest efficiencies. Indeed, the angel being called to drain the tunnels, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is also known for wasting federal taxpayer money on dubious, pork-barrel projects and creating more problems than it solves.

Why has the federal role expanded?

One reason is another kind of flood: government spending. Once it rises, often to address an emergency at home or abroad, the spending doesn’t recede. High water becomes the new normal, until the next emergency, when a second rise comes, as an economist named M. Slade Kendrick noticed as far back as 1955...

Another scholar, Robert Higgs, has pointed out that the larger the government is, the more states kowtow to it. When federal money is available, whether from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or another source, only a foolish governor would ignore that cash. That is why New Jersey’s Chris Christie, a Republican, asked for help from the Army Corps of Engineers this week for beach restoration, and walked arm in arm with Obama. Natural disasters make even the feistiest Republican say, we’re all Democrats now...

It’s important, though, to remember that the only reason voters or politicians place so much faith in Washington is that they can scarcely remember a time when the federal government wasn’t the rescuer.

1 comment:

  1. New York top finance official, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, said Washington should foot the bill,"I think the focus will have to be on Washington, for obvious reasons," DiNapoli told Reuters in an interview. "They have greater resources. They can print money; we can't do that here.”(