New Orleans: Paving the Streets With Gold
by Joe Schembrie
fiscal hurricane was brewing in President George W. Bush's speech
to the nation in New Orleans. "We will rebuild this great city,"
he declared. "No matter the cost." Congress readily authorized an
appropriation of $62 billion to address the flood-disaster needs.
are already talking about two hundred billion dollars for the net
expenditure. Some say it will go much higher.
hundred billion dollars! Does anyone in the federal government
realize how close this comes to paving the streets of New Orleans
appalling political cynicism of this relief effort is revealed with
a simple arithmetic calculation. Just divide two hundred billion
dollars in reconstruction money by the one million residents of
the city, and you get two hundred thousand dollars for every
man, woman, and child in New Orleans!
a typical suburban family of four, this means an expenditure of
eight hundred thousand dollars. You could not only rebuild their
home but raze it and rebuild it, raze it and rebuild it
and then, raze it and rebuild it. And still you would have money
easy enough to understand where the floodwaters went, but just where
is this flood of money going?
pretend that we've mutated into socialists and our sense of guilt
compels us to upgrade everyone's living quarters. But come on
million-dollar homes for welfare mothers with four children? Even
the looniest Swedish Social Democrat wouldn't go there!
will the money be invested instead in the infrastructure of the
streets outside the homes?
here's one truly 'golden' way of picturing it.
you allow that an ounce of gold can cover a square foot of pavement,
and that gold is currently costing about four hundred dollars an
ounce, then for two hundred thousand dollars per person, you could
cover five hundred square feet. This is twenty-five feet of suburban
street front. A family of four would be accorded a hundred feet
of street front. That would be enough to span the street frontage
of a typical suburban home lot.
by asking for two hundred billion dollars, President Bush is coming
within an order of magnitude of literally paving the streets of
New Orleans with gold.
paving with gold doesn't impress you, how about high-end consumer
products? For two hundred billion dollars total and thereby two
hundred thousand dollars per person, and at a cost of $25,000 per
vehicle, you could buy every man, woman, and child in New Orleans
not just one but eight SUVs! So forget gold; for two hundred billion
dollars, you could pave not only the streets but the entire city
we to believe that a thin layer of asphalt would be more expensive?
And you thought the price of oil had risen excessively under Bush!
hundred billion dollars is a lot of money, even to rebuild
an entire city. Just where is the money going?
the people of New Orleans now receive two-hundred-thousand-dollar
debit cards? Hardly.
they live in palatial estates and luxury condos? Ho ho!
they walk on streets paved with gold? Snort!
you followed what happened to 'nation-building' in Iraq, you know
what will happen here as well. The impoverished locals will see
next to nothing of the largesse. After deducting the cost of bureaucratic
(mis)handling, most of the 'reconstruction funds' will be sucked
into a financial black hole of corporate political campaign donors,
courtesy of no-bid contract awards. Based on what we've witnessed
in Iraq, we can call this federally-subsidized disappearing act,
'The Halliburton Effect.'
two hundred billion dollars, the federal government could almost
pave all the streets of New Orleans with gold. But the public would
see the waste and be outraged. So instead, the federal government
will pour the gold into the pockets of political cronies. And without
a picture to fixate on, the visual-minded public will merely yawn
when the bill for this blatant corruption is tallied to the federal
if you dare to protest the absurdity of the cost why, you
must be a racist!
you're done shedding a crocodile tear for the golden folk of New
Orleans, how about weeping for the American taxpayer? Two hundred
billion dollars divided by seventy million taxpayers equals approximately
three thousand dollars per taxpayer. Politicians are saying the
final cost could run much higher . . . and so a cost of five thousand
dollars per taxpayer is not unlikely.
yes. Unlikely, no.
if you're a middle-class American taxpayer, say good-bye to that
trip to Europe. Or your kid's college education. Or maybe the mortgage
payments on your own home.
if the streets of your own city become paved with potholes, you'll
know where the tax money went. And it wasn't to pave the French
Quarter with streets of gold.
Schembrie [send him mail]
is an engineer and writer living in Washington.
© 2005 LewRockwell.com