· A government that presponds would have worked wonders for New Orleans – not only by being ready to rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, but by keeping the city from being flooded and devastated in the first place.
· Unfortunately, the media, the politicians, and the nation at large will probably pay attention to New Orleans only for the rest of this week – or maybe even just this day – and then go back to whatever they were doing before.
· Meanwhile, New Orleans still is nowhere near being fully recovered, as it continues to suffer from broken infrastructure, inadequate flood protection, anemic population growth and rampant crime. If we don’t pay attention and do something about all this when it’s not August 29, what makes us think New Orleans will be significantly better off a year from now?
· It’s time for real, bold action. Fuck the Republican small government ideology. We need a big government that works – one that will really kick the rebuilding of New Orleans into high gear and get the great city back into full health!
Last week, I wrote about how much better off the country would be if we had a government that presponds – i.e. prepares – for things instead of merely responding to them. Nowhere is that more true than New Orleans, which is noting the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s arrival today. Forget all the moaning and groaning over the federal government’s horribly botched response – if the government, at local, state AND federal levels, had properly prepared the levees and made sure they were strong enough to withstand storm surges, New Orleans would have stayed dry. There would have been little to no flooding. And there wouldn’t have been so much shit to have to “respond” to afterwards.
This is not a dream scenario, folks. This is just what would’ve happened had we had an active government that stood right by the American people. Instead, the government we’re stuck with is run by idiot Republican ideologues who think that the government that governs best governs least. Yeah, tell that to the people of New Orleans. It makes me wish that these same Republican ideologues all lived in New Orleans, preferably the Lower Ninth Ward.
In a way, the national habit of simply ignoring problems until they come up, and then ignoring them again later on, is itself being exemplified this week. Today, the whole media is running stories about New Orleans and how much of a hellhole it still is, with unrepaired levees, broken infrastructure and rampant crime. Five presidential candidates are or have descended on the city to posture and look good. By tomorrow, or maybe next week if we’re lucky, the media and the politicians will have left New Orleans and the rest of the country will forget about it, leaving it in the dark to struggle with its overwhelming challenges. Then, a year from now, everyone will come back and look at New Orleans again and go, holy shit! It’s still so bad over there? Well, yes. Because NOLA has become the country’s ugly stepchild, the one that’s kept up in the attic and is only remembered when it happens to be its birthday, at which point the family might go up and pay a visit – and afterwards, ignore it for another year. (And yes, I freely admit that I’m feeding into this system by not having written about New Orleans (since Katrina) until now, and probably not writing about it for another while.)
This is not how it should be. New Orleans should be at the forefront of the nation’s attention. If I were President, I would ask about New Orleans every day. I would be constantly asking about the progress of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of that city. And whatever money the city asked for, I’d ask Congress to give it. And I would make sure that money is being spent on the city and on the people, not going to the pockets of private corporations and CEOs like it has been. And let’s get one thing straight: two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, NOLA is nowhere near being fully recovered. One hundred and forty thousand households are still waiting for their checks from the Road Home program. Only 7% of those who lived in the Lower Ninth Ward have returned. Even though the city has lost a massive amount of population, it has the highest murder rate of any city in the nation. Hell, the all-important levees aren’t even fully repaired and upgraded to withstand another Katrina! No wonder so few people are moving back to NOLA – the place is still a shithole, and how nice would that be, to move back to a hurricane-devastated city only to once again lose everything to another killer hurricane that the city wasn’t prepared for, thanks to government negligence. That is, if you don’t get shanked first.
The Democratic Congress should take this opportunity to really help New Orleans. It should most certainly allocate more money and resources – that’s important. But it should also investigate the various programs that are supposed to be funneling those resources to the city, and if there’s any waste, fraud and abuse in the system – and from the looks of it there most certainly is – it needs to be exposed and eliminated. We need to figure out why so much money that’s leaving the federal treasury isn’t actually ending up in New Orleans, or in the hands of its 273 000 citizens. Also, Congress should most certainly be thinking up and enacting massive federal programs – yes, that’s right, BIG GOVERNMENT programs – to really rebuild and repopulate New Orleans and get its people back on their feet. And since I think it should be pretty obvious by now that our current President doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass about New Orleans, the next President of the United States should make the rehabilitation of New Orleans his or her top domestic priority. Because, let’s face it, New Orleans is our national shame. Let’s end that shame.