Now Playing: "This land is . . . " Woody Guthrie
Topic: In the Wake of Katrina
Connecting the Dots
In the wake of a catastrophic disaster like Katrina, we have a right to ask "why". Some would say it was an unanticipated act of God, and we should not hold anyone accountable. Yet, the facts may suggest otherwise.
Early in the present Bush Administration, FEMA noted that the greatest catastrophies we could face included a terrorist attack in New York City, and a category 4 or 5 hurricane in New Orleans. We have known for some time, that the levees around New Orleans were only strong enough to withstand a category 3 hurricane. The wetlands are also eroding. (It would cost about 15 billion dollars to fortity the levees and rebuild the wetlands, about the cost of fighting the war in Iraq for 2 weeks.)
Yet, this Administration cut funding for fortifying the levies around New Orleans. We can put aside, for a moment, that this Administration ignored warnings of a terrorist attack within the US before 9-11, and then eventually diverted our resources to a war in Iraq. It is the war in Iraq that diverted members of the National Guard from homeland security, and possibly contributed to cutting funding on domestic spending, like fortifying the levees around New Orleans.
In 2004, FEMA conducted a mock disaster drill involving a category 4 - 5 hurricane in New Orleans, that predicted all that has happened. Yet, it still took 5 days to get desperately needed life saving resources to the most vulnerable. The protective wetlands around New Orleans continued to erode, yet little was done to protect them. The cost of this catastrophic event will dwarf what it would have cost to prepare an adequate defense for it.
And finally, in the midst of this tragedy, we are being exploited with radical increases in the cost of gas.
Most developed nations have acknowledged global warming and man's contribution to it. One aspect of global warming is more intense storms. Yet, the oil industry lobbies against its existence, and this Administration acquiesces with them. This is not unlike the executives of the tobacco industry testifying in the 90's that smoking was just a habit, when they full well knew the addictive nature of nicotine to a point where they increased its content in their products.
With the passing of Justice Rehnquist, we are reminded of historic trends toward more conservative policies. One aspect of conservative thinking is to define government as the problem, and a belief that the private sector can fix all our woes, if we just get government out of the way.
Less government may be helpful to profiteering multi-national corporations, who don't want to be held accountable for their decisions, but working class Americans, and our most needy citizens, are not so well served.
The conservative mind set that vilifies liberalism, does not mention that those so called liberal programs are usually programs designed to help working class Americans as well as the impoverished. Even Nixon proposed a policy for universal health care. Today, the concept is seldom put on the table for discussion, even though it works in most other developed nations.
The decline of labor union influence in politics has led to lower paying non-union jobs in big businesses like Wal-Mart, who pay so little that the encourage their employees to apply for government benefits, like food stamps. This amounts to back door corporate welfare.
So, the politics of less government has been around for sometime. The Bush II Administration merely represents a perfect storm of government collusion with the multi-national corporate interests. His selection was bought and paid for by such interests, and you can trace most decisions of this Administration to doing their bidding, be it no bid contracts, relaxation of environmental standards, domestic spending cuts, the now unfunded mandate of "no child left behind", the refusal to use bargaining power with pharmaceutical companies for the new medicare prescription plan (including a ban on cheaper drugs from Canada), anti-labor initiatives regarding eligibility for overtime, exemption of some industries from liability law suits, the change in bankruptcy law, and the list could go on.
Even our defense policies are tainted by what President Eisenhower tried to warn us about, a military industrial complex, just one form of government - corporate collusion. The Bush II Administration's backing away from the ABM treaty, allowed us to pursue a missile defense system with questionable reliability, yet some defense contractor will profit, regardless. The war in Iraq does not just give us access to Iraqi oil, it also makes the Iraqi economy user friendly to the multi-national corporate & banking interests.
Our government was originally designed to be "of, by and for the people", not of, by and for multi-national corporate interests. Yet, it is now impossible to run for major public office unless you are wealthy, or backed by the wealthiest concerns. If the standard is now to need $200 million + to run for President, how likely is it, that we will have candidates who will not acquiesce to multi-national interests.
The free trade policies supported by both major parties are at the behest of multi-national corporate interests, so they can exploit cheap labor in countries with no worker safety or environmental standards.
Just like we need a separation of church and state, we also need a separation of government and multi-national corporate interests. This can be accomplished in part, through true campaign finance reform, and lobby reform that levels the playing field among all lobbyists.
In this way, combined with other endeavors, we may have a government that is truly responsive to the needs of the people, and thus more likely to prevent tragedies caused by a lack of preparation for a catastrophic event, like a hurricane.