The Corner

Psychological Barrier

My weekend column deals in part with what ought to be the national disgrace of Hurricane Sandy’s impact. I write of Nanny Bloomberg:

This is a man who spends his days micro-managing the amount of soda New Yorkers are allowed to have in their beverage containers rather than, say, the amount of ocean New Yorkers are allowed to have in their subway system.

And I wondered why he hadn’t “expended as much executive energy on flood protection for the electrical grid and transit system”. The London Telegraph reports today on a plan for a five-mile storm-surge barrier across the mouth of New York’s harbor, similar to the far longer one in St Petersburg – or, indeed, to the Thames Barrier. Whatever the merits of the plan, I was struck by this passage:

Michael Bowman, an oceanography professor at Long Island’s Stony Brook University is also involved in the project. He says the plan would cost around $10 billion “a small amount of capital expense compared to the damage from Hurricane Sandy,” he told The Telegraph.

That’s true. I think Sandy’s costs are currently estimated at around $50 billion. But he’s missing the more basic point. In contemporary American governmental terms, $10 billion is “a small amount” compared to anything. It’s a rounding error. It would have been 1.2 per cent of Obama’s laughably misnamed “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”. You could have 83 flood barriers for the cost of one lousy stimulus bill. And yet it never happened – and, if we’re honest with ourselves, in today’s sclerotic America, you can’t even imagine it happening, can you? Let us go to Nanny Bloomberg himself:

But with so many prescient warnings, city authorities are struggling to explain why so little was done. Mayor Bloomberg has said it was difficult to translate such warnings into concrete action.

They can chisel that on the epitaph of the republic. Because with Big Government American-style, no matter how many trillions of dollars are spent, it all goes to makework bureaucracies. What does Nanny B ever translate into “concrete action”? Why, here he is posing with a desktop of carbonated beverages. This is what passes for political leadership in America. Can you imagine this ridiculous man or the spendaholic president he’s endorsed ever actually building a flood barrier? As I say in my column, we are governed by men who spend everything but can’t do anything.

We need an electoral flood to wash this crowd away. Tuesday would be a good start.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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