I took this shot in downtown New Orleans two years ago.The bill to resurrect New Orleans is now estimated at $200 billion. Best guesses are that it will take between 5 and 15 years to regain any sort of normalcy in the area.
There are about 484,000 people who live(d) there, or 1.3 million people if you include the greater New Orleans territory. Some quick math tells us this:
If $200 billion were distributed to all New Orleans residents, that’s $413,000 per person. For a family of six on welfare, that’s $2.4 million. If we include the greater New Orleans area, it’s $154,000 per person and $923,000 for a family of six.
And all this assumes the bill stays at $200 billion. Many think the real number will be well north of this. $300 billion or more.
I’m not saying government payouts like this are a better way to help remedy the situation in New Orleans, but it sure makes you wonder if this town, so prone to very frequent disasters like this should be the subject of reinvestment and rebuilding. I’ve been to New Orleans, and I love it, but what I love about it is its old-country feel, its historical character, and its rich culture. Considering that tourism is really the only industry in New Orleans (besides freight), will the rebuilt New Orleans be a place anyone will even want to go? Maybe, maybe not. You can’t tear down old Spanish architecture and replace it with old Spanish architecture. It also remains to be seen if all of the displaced people who made the city was it is will ever be able to come back under anything close to normal conditions. It is also debatable exactly how much of the popular French Quarter is actually damaged. Some say not really at all.
Anyway, I have no answers. And I guess my main question is, what exactly are we trying to save with our $200 billion? If it’s the people, there are probably better ways. If it’s an important port town, there are probably other safer alternatives nearby. And if it’s the culture, that’s a big gamble that it will ever be back. There does exist a price-tag which makes resurrecting New Orleans not worth it… I just don’t think anyone knows what that threshold is. And then there’s the inverse argument that billions of dollars of government spending equals billions of dollars of new jobs… a much better use of cash than a failed war.
So what’s the best way out of this situation? Your opinions please…
Note: Collin Yeadon, a reader of this site, has helped design the web presence of an organization called Katrina’s Angels which provides shelter and jobs for the hurricane’s victims. If you’re inclined to help, it’s worth a visit.