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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Paul Krugman: The New American Way

PAUL KRUGMAN

Two years ago, Americans watched in horror as a great city drowned, and wondered what had happened to their country. Where was FEMA? Where was the National Guard? Why wasn't the government of the world's richest, most powerful nation coming to the aid of its citizens?

What we mostly saw on TV was the nightmarish scene at the Superdome, but things were even worse at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded without food or water. The levees were breached Monday morning — but as late as Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported, the convention center "still had no visible government presence," while "corpses lay out in the open among wailing babies and other refugees."

Meanwhile, federal officials were oblivious.

"We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy," declared Michael Chertoff, the secretary for Homeland Security, on Wednesday. When asked the next day about the situation at the convention center, he dismissed the reports as "a rumor."

Today, much of the Gulf Coast remains in ruins. Less than half the federal money set aside for rebuilding — as opposed to emergency relief — has actually been spent, in part because the Bush administration refused to waive the requirement that local governments put up matching funds for recovery projects: An impossible burden for communities whose tax bases have literally been washed away.

On the other hand, generous investment tax breaks, supposedly designed to spur recovery in the disaster area, have been used to build luxury condominiums near the University of Alabama's football stadium in Tuscaloosa, 200 miles inland.

But why should we be surprised by any of this? The Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina — the mixture of neglect of those in need, obliviousness to their plight, and self-congratulation in the face of abject failure — has become standard operating procedure. These days, it's Katrina all the time.

Consider the White House reaction to new Census data on income, poverty and health insurance. By any normal standard, this week's report was a devastating indictment of the administration's policies. After all, last year the administration insisted that the economy was booming — and whined that it wasn't getting enough credit. What the data show, however, is that 2006, while a good year for the wealthy, brought only a slight decline in the poverty rate and a modest rise in median income, with most Americans still considerably worse off than they were before President Bush took office.

Most disturbing of all, the number of Americans without health insurance jumped. At this point, there are 47 million uninsured people in this country, 8.5 million more than there were in 2000. Bush may think that being uninsured is no big deal — "you just go to an emergency room" — but the reality is that if you're uninsured every illness is a catastrophe.

Yet the White House news release on the report declared that President Bush was "pleased" with the new numbers: Heckuva job, economy!

Bush's only concession that something might be amiss was to say that "challenges remain in reducing the number of uninsured Americans" — a statement reminiscent of Emperor Hirohito's famous admission, in his surrender broadcast, that "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage."

There's a powerful political faction in this country that's determined to draw exactly the wrong lesson from the Katrina debacle — namely, that the government always fails when it attempts to help people in need, so it shouldn't even try.

"I don't want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health care system," says Mitt Romney, as if the Bush administration's practice of appointing incompetent cronies to key positions and refusing to hold them accountable no matter how badly they perform — did I mention that Chertoff still has his job? — were the way government always works.

Future historians will, without doubt, see Katrina as a turning point. The question is whether it will be seen as the moment when America remembered the importance of good government, or the moment when neglect and obliviousness to the needs of others became the new American way.

Paul Krugman writes for The New York Times.

Original published September 4, 2007 by Monterey Herald.

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Broadening Katrina’s Lens: A Five-Part Series
Part 1: Broadening Katrina's Lens
Part 2: Recovery’s Two Major Impediments: $$$ and the "F" word
Part 3: The "F" Word: FEMA
Part 4: Katrina’s Bigger Picture
Part 5: Katrina’s Karmic Payback: Insurance Reform
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ana Maria said...

In case you've not bothered to look around, this site is for those with the courage of their convictions rather than for insulting fools and cowards who hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Show yourself or I'll delete your comment because two traits I find among the most despicable are cowardice and hypocrisy.

Your government illiteracy is amazing particularly if you are going to come on my blog and attempt to lecture. Mayors and governors are elected positions by those citizens living in the proper jurisdictions for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

Given that George W. Bush is not a legally registered voter in New Orleans, he cannot vote in any New Orleans elections. Given that he is not a legally registered voter in any part of Louisiana, he cannot vote for governor.

Your utter ignorance about the situation on the ground with the breaking of the levees, with Bush and FEMA deliberately failing to inform Governor Blanco, the Lousiana Emergency folks, or anyone in New Orleans is a horror-filled piece of information. Read Katrina, Bush's New Orleanian Betrayal and The American Way.

The word on the ground in New Orleans is that Katrina missed them--and it did. What the Bush Administration knew and the folks inside Louisiana did not know was that the Army Corps of Engineers' built levees were breaking and soon to flood the city.

Of course, with all the attention on this horrible set of circumstances, the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast's problems and enormous challenges after Katrina went unattended to. Suffering there lingered for months and continues to this day as well.

Next is your insulting comment "research chimps", which is racist and therefore appalling. Didn't realize that? Your ignorance count increases.

Personally, given your apparently low level of intelligence in many directions including that of manners, I would not insult a rock by comparing you to one.

Lastly, the levees are federal and if they break they are the responsibility of the federal government. When they break, the damages--including property and deaths--are the federal governments responsibility.

If you care to show your face and act in a civil and educated manner, then please do so. Otherwise, your comment will soon be stricken, vanished, eliminated, just as surely as Katrina has eliminated towns and cities, homes and businesses throughout the Katrina-ravaged area from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, across the entire Gulf Coast of Mississippi, into Louisiana and straight through New Orleans, Louisiana.

By the way, the evacuation plan was another Bush fiasco of which you must again be ignorant. (Your ignorant count rises again.)

Bush spent our federal money on an evacuation plan for New Orleans. Unfortunately, the only requirement appeared to be to have been a contributor to his political party rather than to possess expertise in emergency management with a specialty in evacuation planning. Again, all of that is found in my piece Katrina, Bush's New Orleanian Betrayal and The American Way.

So come out of the closet of cowards hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. As I once saw on a t-shirt when I was doing some research at the Tulane library in the early 80's, "Closets are for clothes, not for people." Come out or your rudeness and utter contempt for fact-based reality will be vanished.

Hope the decision making process doesn't strain your brain.

Chuck said...

Anonymous, don't fret.
Ana has lost touch with reality and I think it happend a long time ago. She can't help they way she is, so just nod your head and take it.
Ana,
First of all you are right, Bush is not a citizen of La. and you know that Bush could not do anything about saving NO. No matter if he knew the levee system was breaking, by then it was too late.
You see Anonymous, some how the some people in NO saw the levees breaking and decided to send Bush the memo, but did not want to tell Blanco. I know it doesnt make any sense, but thats what these people believe. Its just another sheet for poor leadership to hide behind and make excuses.
You see how she pulls the race card on you. After reading your comment, I found nothing wrong with your comment and understood that there was no meaning behind it. Its an easy card to pull and liberals like her do it all the time. You notice she did not respond to your comments about poor leaders, she just personally attacked you. The reason that Ana gets so up tight about the La. situation is the fact that she is a feminist.She hates when people bash a woman governor that has no leadership skills and she's in denial. Tis tis. You need to look at her bio. It alone will explain her problems.
I know she won't post this. She unposted several of my comments because of my content. If she does post it, she will come back with personal attacks and round and round we'll go.

P.S.
She sure go you anonymous. HA!!! You know she has...all the spunk and smarts of an Erin Brockovich! HA!!