- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2005

Will real fiscal conservatives please stand up?

You reported on Wednesday that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay stated there was no fat left to cut in the federal budget (“DeLay declares ‘victory’ in war on budget fat,” Page 1). Then on Thursday night, President Bush committed our nation to hundreds of billions of dollars of reconstruction spending. He called for shared sacrifice, but did not indicate how we will pay for this new spending. He spoke out against waste, but tapped his political adviser Karl Rove to run the reconstruction.

The president also said, “It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces.” In earlier decades his statement would have been incendiary. Katrina’s aftermath represents a failure of government to act properly under its existing mandate; it should not be used to justify expanding federal authority.

At no time during and after Katrina’s strike did a lack of authority prevent the federal government from doing what needed to be done. Indeed, no additional authority has been granted, yet the rescue is belatedly complete and the flooding is being checked. The problem was purely mismanagement: inattention mixed with incompetence, misprioritization and poor coordination. The party of small government, individual rights and accountability is straying far from its roots and we will all suffer for it.


New York

Federal subsidies sustain ‘risky behavior’

Patrice Hill (“Paying for risky behavior,” Business, Wednesday) was dead-on in her analysis of federal programs that subsidize foolish, costly and, all too often, deadly decisions to build in areas prone to repeated flooding and tropical storm damage. Despite the fact that levees sometimes fail, the presence of an Army Corp of Engineers-constructed levee often eliminates the requirement that property owners in areas at risk of flooding purchase flood insurance as a condition of getting a mortgage. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, repetitive damage claims are the most significant factor in rising flood-insurance costs.

The National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA, pays claims averaging $200 million per year for about 40,000 repetitively flooded properties, and since 1984 it has paid out nearly $1 billion for 10,000 properties that have experienced two or more losses, with cumulative claims exceeding the value of the property.

The Heinz Center has calculated that without government-subsidized flood insuranceandflood-control programs, there would be about 25 percent less development density in high-risk flood areas than in low-risk areas.

Government programs should neither subsidize those who choose to live in harm’s way nor encourage environmental destruction — but those are the results of NFIP, FEMA rebuilding loans and Corps beach-restoration projects. Ending the subsidies would reduce the economic, human and environmental toll of natural disasters.


Senior Fellow

National Center for Policy Analysis


Bankrupt airlines

Look out, Delta; watch out Northwest. Local airline Independence Air is headed your way (“Airlines file for Chapter 11 haven,” Page 1, Thursday). If these guys aren’t bankrupt in a month, I figure they certainly should be.

Independence Air brags about the wonderful experience on “IFly.” Anybody trying to get to Los Angeles on IFly is more likely to call it “ICry.” Independence abruptly canceled service to Los Angeles this week because of fuel costs. Anyone holding a ticket is basically out of luck. Because it’s too late to book a cheap fare on another airline, I’m stuck.

Independence told me it could get me to San Diego and then arrange for a rental car so I could enjoy the glorious bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way to Los Angeles. The operator was from North Dakota, so maybe she just doesn’t understand that 120 miles of congested freeway is not my idea of a good time.

I told the people at Independence Air that they needed to provide better customer service or they would go bankrupt. The supervisor actually said, “Keeping our customers has nothing to do with going bankrupt.” I guess according to their novel business plan, somehow you can generate revenue without customers. I must have missed the math in the formula: Rising fuel costs plus fewer paying customers equals record profitability. Not even Congress would buy such shoddy budgeting.



India, Iran and the United States

I am appalled by the blatantly misleading claims presented in the editorial “India and Iran’s threat” (Friday).

First, to say that the United States is “working to persuade India not to cooperate with Iran’s nuclear-weapons programs” is similar to asking, “When did you stop beating your wife?” The fact is that India has never cooperated with Iran in nuclear weapons.

Next, the editorial goes on to link the recent U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation agreement to the phantom Indian-Iranian nuclear ties. This is absurd.

India is fundamentally on the same side as the United States with respect to Iran — it does not want Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. The real issue the United States faces is with China and Russia, both of which have nuclear ties with the Iranian autocrats and both of which can block American efforts to bring Iran to justice at the United Nations Security Council.

Ironically, the United States has civilian nuclear trade with China despite Beijing’s direct support to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. America also maintains close military ties with Pakistan — a serial proliferator and Iran’s primary nuclear supplier.

The United States has every right to expect India, a friendly nation, to support it in bringing Iran to book for nuclear violations. Though India has not opposed American efforts, it also is understandable that Washington is peeved at certain ill-timed public statements coming out of New Delhi with regard to Iran. However, these sort of communication issues are not uncommon in developing alliances. The best way to deal with them is through quiet diplomacy and understanding of the issues behind the public stances.

India’s current ties with Iran are based on energy needs, not unlike the close ties the United States maintains with terrorist-friendly oil suppliers such as Saudi Arabia. Also, unlike with China, helping address Indian energy needs definitely will make New Delhi become more attuned to American concerns on Iran. The recent Indian-U.S. nuclear reactor deal is, therefore, a step in the right direction.

However, if the Bush administration follows the editorial’s advice and resorts to crude threats against India based on bogus claims of nuclear cooperation, it will only serve to discredit those with pro-American views within the Indian polity. One hopes diplomacy and common sense prevail.



Finally, someone in Washington has awakened to note that relations between India and Iran threaten the interests of the United States.

“The Indians are master-psychologists,” Henry Kissinger once told President Nixon. These are the same Indians who, now, on one hand, without signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, seek nuclear technology from the United States and at the same time continue to have nuclear collaboration with Iran. While the Indians continue to play the song that they are world’s greatest and biggest democracy and Pakistan is the most horrible country, Washington continues to fall for their line despite New Delhi’s dangerous double game as it courts both Tehran and Washington.


Juneau, Alaska

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