There is no place in America that needs the spotlight of presidential attention more than the hurricane-ravaged region of southwestern Louisiana.
We welcome the announced visit of President Joe Biden to Lake Charles and also to New Orleans on Thursday.
While the president’s agenda is said to be to talk about his infrastructure proposal before Congress, we also want to see him address hurricane recovery.
The devastation inflicted on southwestern Louisiana by Hurricane Laura last year was profound. Within weeks, a hurricane named Delta came ashore on almost the same path; while smaller in the forces of its winds, as almost every hurricane in U.S. history has been, the second storm set back recovery and ruined homes and other structures that were under repair.
That kind of double hit is remarkable in even Louisiana’s storm-ravaged history during the first two decades of this century.
We are confident that the president will be aware of and sensitive to the need to address recovery in a region that has had such a hard time.
Biden’s predecessor visited Lake Charles and the region and used the presidential spotlight to focus on the need for assistance. The time of the president is perhaps the most limited and precious asset of the United States government.
Donald Trump and Biden are appreciated for their concern, but every presidential visit tries to hunt several birds with one shot. For Trump, for example, a visit to southwestern Louisiana was a chance for him to draw attention to his support of the vast new industry of exporting liquefied natural gas from this country to the world.
Biden will be promoting his infrastructure proposal, a priority that both presidents shared rhetorically but Trump found it difficult to deliver on, even after his personal promise to build a new bridge for Interstate 10 crossing the Calcasieu River in the heart of southwestern Louisiana.
The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, welcomed the Biden visit and noted that our state too has multiple concerns to be addressed.
“I’m excited to welcome President Biden back to Louisiana to discuss improving our infrastructure, hurricane recovery and the COVID crisis,” Edwards said. “We have billions of dollars in backlogged infrastructure projects in Louisiana and I am thankful for federal support to tackle these challenges, create jobs and improve life for our people.”
Ah, yes, dollars. For ultimately that is a key Biden priority, to argue for people here and for the wider audience of those following presidential utterances, that another multi-trillion-dollar spending bill is necessary to “tackle these challenges.”
The president has drawn some criticism, particularly from such national Republican leaders as Steve Scalise, of Jefferson Parish, for the broad definition of “infrastructure” in the proposed spending bill.
We share some of those concerns: The plain meaning of the word used to be roads and bridges and train tracks. Over time, it has been recognized that infrastructure includes broadband access, typically delivered by wires, but Biden’s bill reaches farther to include what might be called — and maybe will be on Thursday, from behind the presidential seal — human infrastructure, what used to be more strictly defined as social services.
It’s a discussion worth having, and if Lake Charles is one great place to have it, New Orleans is another. We know that investments in children and families are needed to turn around the economic as well as social trajectories of communities in our state.
We shall keep an open mind on the president’s case on the spending bill. But we most want to see him push for more effective hurricane recovery, an urgent problem in our state.