The Post-Dispatch printed a letter yesterday from Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, a republican who represents south east Missouri's 8th district, in which she criticized the newspaper for framing the controversy around the decision to breach the Birds Point Levee as a choice between saving the town of Cairo Ill. or saving frarm land and farm communities in the New Madrid floodway. In the letter Emerson says:
The conflict deserving of public attention isn't between the New Madrid floodway and Cairo; it's between those working to secure 21st-century flood protection along the Mississippi River and those who would rather turn it into 16th-century fish habitat.
Rep. Emerson goes on to imply that our locks, dams and levees are not properly maintained because of "environmental extremists." The truth is that while environmentalists may complain and protest about levee construction, the real problem facing our levee system is a lack of funding. Many economists and even President Obama have proposed spending money to fix our aging infastructure and put people back to work in this poor economy. Republicans have a word for the plan: Socialism. Republicans like Rep. Emerson view government spending as an evil of biblical porportions. She even voted for Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan that would require massive cuts in domestic spending and, of course, massive tax cuts for the rich.
The sad reality is that no matter how much we spend on levee construction, we will never be able to protect every community on or near every major river every time. Rain falls, rivers flood and sometimes despite our best efforts lives are tragically altered by such events. Jo Ann Emerson knows this.