Compassion for Corporations

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.

Hubert Humphrey

Again we have been treated to the workings of a truly compassionate administration. In one case it took two tries, in the other it was doing what comes naturally and got it right the first time. FEMA is the teacher.

In the first case its first try came slightly more than one week before the day when all Americans join together to give thanks for the many good things that have happened to them during the year. A number of former residents of New Orleans had planned to give thanks for George W. Bush. It was he who, standing in the Rose Garden on September 3 after Katrina struck New Orleans said: "I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering. Many are angry and desperate for help. The tasks before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need. And the federal government will do its part . . .. We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done." Who wouldn’t be thankful for such promises? But then, sad to say, something happened that changed the victims’ plans to give thanks.

FEMA slipped notices under the doors of Katrina victims who were staying in hotels at FEMA’s expense. The notices were notices of eviction. The 50,000 families staying in hotels around the United States were told to get out by December 1 except for those in Mississippi and Louisiana who were given until January 7, 2006.

FEMA said it was acting out of a sense of compassion. Its spokesperson, Nicol Andrews explained: "We want to help people to get back on their feet to become self-sustaining and to have some control over their destiny. It is just inhumane to leave a family stuck in a hotel room and not offer them an option that exists to move beyond that." Don Jacks, another spokesman for FEMA said: "We’re not forcing anyone out of hotels. Yes we will stop paying for hotel rooms the night of Nov. 30 and on Dec. 1 these people will need to be ready to move."

Commenting on the original FEMA news, Texas Governor Rick Perry said: "[M]y great concern is that there is still no long-term housing plan for the hundreds of thousands of Katrina victims who lost everything and . . . many of them may find themselves with no long-term housing options."

Commentators and the homeless quietly pointed out that this action, though undeniably helpful for enabling the victims to be more self-sufficient, seemed a bit harsh.

Sensitive to the charge, FEMA gave them a reprieve. It said they did not have to leave until the week before Christmas and, in addition, in some communities they may stay until January 7. Its chair also said the agency would continue to pay for alternative housing for those being evicted, something he forgot to mention when he initially said everyone had to leave. That was probably just an oversight.

There has been no such oversight with respect to Northrop Grumman.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. Navy has asked FEMA to give it $2 billion to restore Northrop’s Gulfport facilities to their pre-Katrina "capacity and profit opportunities." According to the Times that would "shift the full burden of hurricane-related cost overruns and ship-building delays from Northrop to the government." That amount is in addition to the $500 million Northrop has already gotten from its insurers and the additional $500 billion it believes its insurers owe it. According to one watchdog group, the $2 billion is almost as much as the government plans to spend on repairing housing. The reason those funds are available for FEMA to give to Northrop instead of to non-corporate victims of Katrina goes back to October 28.

On that date Mr. Bush asked that $17.1 billion of FEMA funds be reallocated. He said he wanted the pentagon to get $6.6 billion (a sum that includes the Northrop money). The rest is to go to the National Guard reservists and repairs to military installations damaged by Katrina. He didn’t leave out the human victims. He said
$2.2 billion should be used for housing recovery.

It’s great news that many of the victims won’t have to move out 6 days after Thanksgiving but can postpone the move until 9 days before Christmas. That shows how compassionate FEMA can be. It’s also good that Northrop will get federal help to restore it to its pre-Katrina profitability. That, too, shows how compassionate FEMA can be.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu or through his website: http://hraos.com/








 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?