Last night you gave an address using the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an opportunity to pontificate about many subjects. I am afraid that far from convincing me you are leading the federal government well in this disaster, you have removed beyond a doubt your indifference to the state of Louisiana. Since you rarely visited the state before the disaster (even when the un-repaired damage done by Hurricane Katrina should have called your attention), perhaps I, as a resident of this great state, can explain what you obviously don’t understand.
Next weekend is Father’s Day. For much of the country, this brings up images of ugly ties and dad watching golf. For me, it brings up images of crabs. For Father’s Day, my family would drive into my grandparents’ house for a crab boil. While the pot hissed outside, all the men would stand around it, usually talking about LSU sports, while the ladies fixed up the deserts and caught up with each other. Once the crabs were done, we would all go outside on the patio and shuck crabs, with the older grandchildren teaching and helping the younger ones the different tricks of the art.
Crab boils are of course are not reserved for the celebration of Father’s Day. Often families who went crabbing would invite all of their friends and family members to come join them in the feast. These boils became opportunities to meet many other people in a comfortable setting while enjoying a great meal.
The point I am trying to make, Mr. President, is that seafood is not merely one choice on the menu in Louisiana. It is an essential aspect of a rich culture centered on the family. It is not just the way of life of the fishing cultures that are risk, Mr. President, even though their communities are the most threatened at this hour; it the way of life of the entire region of South Louisiana.
It is that threat which I, as a resident of South Louisiana, now face. Perhaps in this light you can understand just how pitiful your speech was. A little less than a fourth of it was dedicated to discussing how you planned to help restore Louisiana, and these “plans” have very little substance.
It is not enough to say that you will press BP to pay the fisherman & restaurant owners. Thanks to federal law, BP has a good argument for denying payment. Even if they do pay, BP’s money will be slow in coming-too slow to help save their livelihoods, especially in this economy that does not appear any closer to turning around. It is therefore imperative that you turn towards the other party greatly responsible for this disaster: your own federal government. The scope of negligence committed by the regulators means that the government needs to accept responsibility and start taking immediate actions to repair the damage done. This means that the federal government needs to start contributing to a fund for those communities, not hoping that BP will play nice and set it up. As we’ve seen, BP has no interest in being responsible. For the sake of Louisiana damaged by your government’s negligence, you must assume that mantle.
Of course, as I just explained the damage is not merely limited to the fishing industries but to the whole state. The state of Louisiana deserves compensation. However, do not think Louisiana is asking for handouts. We simply want what is rightfully ours. To that end, you must accelerate the timetable for Louisiana to receive its share of oil and gas revenues. Today, Louisiana and other states must wait until 2017 until they receive 37.5% of the federal revenues (about $3 billion per year). For years, Louisiana has born the burnt of the environmental risk while other states consumed its oil and prevented any drilling of their own coasts. While other states have only increased American dependence on foreign oil, putting the country in a perilous condition especially with regards terrorism, Louisiana has done its duty while receiving very little benefit. This situation must change and it within your power to change it.
Furthermore, you must immediately end the ridiculous moratorium on offshore oil drilling. This moratorium does nothing but try to score political points for you and quite frankly Louisiana does not care about your re-election chances. We care about our economy, which is just as dependent on drilling as it is on the seafood industry. While it is true that must understand the causes of the disaster, your commission is more apt to study the affects of the spill and not the engineering failures that causes the explosion as the experts are experts in environmental science. These experts are more suited towards studying the how to fix the coast in the long-term, not a short-term examination of the problems of Deepwater Horizon.
If you insist upon this moratorium, then you must do as much in your power to shorten it. Furthermore, in order to prevent further damage to Louisiana’s economy the federal government ought to compensate these workers for the wages they are losing due to the federal government’s moratorium. Remember, this is as much your fault as it is BP’s.
And finally, Mr. President, we in Louisiana are tired of speeches. You and your predecessor for both this disaster and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were fond of making highly-publicized speeches full of promises not kept. The dormant neighborhoods of Eastern New Orleans, still marked with the spray paint used by the National Guard in their search for survivors, testifies to the empty promises of the federal government. We require action. And action means a lot more than photo-ops. Now is the time Mr. President for you to stop being a candidate for President in 2012 and start being a President. Be a leader and act. It is your actions, and not you speeches or election results, that will determine how Louisiana and history judge you, Mr. President. I pray that you deserve to be judged well.