Katrina’s Silver Lining

If there is any silver lining to the smoke-laced cloud that is hanging over the toxic cesspool and mass graveyard that used to be New Orleans, it is the just deserts that are coming to the millions of people who put the Bush Administration and the lunatic right in power in Washington.

Sure, the poor are getting clobbered in New Orleans and across the breadth of the Gulf coast, and sure, we are all in for it now, progressives and political Neanderthals alike, as the economy stumbles and oil prices soar, but I still take keen satisfaction in watching as the gullible idiots who voted for a movement that promised them little token tax cuts and smaller government have to face the consequences of their selfish actions.

In a few short months, Bush’s years of neglect of conservation, combined with his callous disregard for the security of New Orleans, will cost Americans more in heating and gasoline bills than all the tax breaks they have received and hoped to receive over the full eight years of the Bush presidency. The destruction of the port of New Orleans will end up sending food prices on an inflationary spiral even as the economy is likely to slip into recession. Perhaps most deliciously of all, the inflation in energy and food prices that will result from New Orleans’ decimation, combined with the massive increase in the government budget deficit its rebuilding will entail, ensures that the Federal Reserve will have to continue raising interest rates, thus popping the housing bubble that has so enriched homeowning, mostly Republican, voters. (The biggest inflation in housing has occurred in wealthy Republican Sunbelt regions of Florida and California, and in the high-end, mostly Republican neighborhoods of major cities like Boston, New York and San Francisco.)

All of this was predictable. You couldn’t have known that it would be New Orleans that would be the keystone whose removal would crumble the right-wing edifice. It could have been the War in Iraq, which promises to get worse and worse. It could have been the long-predicted Big One in California, or the still looming Bird Flu epidemic. In the end it was a moderately big hurricane and a dead city that did the trick. But the groundwork for disaster was laid over the last few decades by a mass of middle-class people who somehow believed (with a fervor akin to that of fundamentalists who believe the earth is flat and was formed in seven days) that it would be a great idea to put into federal office people whose fundamental ideological view is that government doesn’t work, does everything (except making war and convicting and executing the right people) badly, and should be made as small and weak as possible.

Yet with such governmental nihilists in power, how could the outcome in New Orleans have been other than an epic disaster? Would these people have hired teachers for their schools who didn’t believe kids could learn? Would they have gone to doctors when they were sick, who professed a belief that medicine was a joke? Would they have hired a contractor to build their home who said that engineering and architecture were for sissies?

The Bush/Republican approach to disaster relief is to stay on vacation (Bush and Cheney), go shopping (Secretary of State Condi Rice), let the locals handle it (FEMA Director Michael Brown), stay in Washington and insist everything is fine (Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff), and then to call on people to make contributions to the Salvation Army and Rev. Pat Robertson’s “charity” slush fund. Republicans gutted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, slashed funding to states and local governments for basic police and fire services, shipped off existing first responder personnel (who generally join National Guard units because it makes sense, and because they pick up some extra cash) to Iraq, where they were never meant to be. Then they appointed a dim-witted political hack to head it all up, and they put him under a Homeland Security secretary whose prior management experience was ordering around a couple of court clerks and a court stenographer, and who has displayed his grasp of the current crisis facing his department by declaring that Louisiana is a city. (If America were Japan, the streets of downtown Washington today would be slippery with the gore of legions of leaders and department heads, from the president on down, committing ritual harikiri. Sadly, our leaders don’t do such things; they just blame subordinates or others.)

One has to hope that this debacle–the unprecedented loss of an important American city and the slaughter of 10,000 or more innocent people through incompetence and malicious neglect-and the ensuing financial pain it will inflict on the whole American public, including the me-first lot that put the whole conservative rat pack in Washington, will lead to a rebirth of rational self-interest and perhaps even of a social conscience in the American body politic.

Seeing fellow Americans going through the hell they have been enduring in New Orleans has to make some of the less cold-hearted of Republican and swing voters realize the evil that their own chosen leaders have wrought. Meanwhile, self-interest is likely to make even the empathy-challenged see the wrong-headedness of handing government over to those who deny its importance, or who simply use government as a tool for enriching themselves and their cronies.

Am I right? The polls showing Bush and the Republican congress now sinking below 34% in public support say yes.

And the real financial pain of New Orleans’ destruction has not yet begun to bite.







CounterPunch contributor DAVE LINDORFF is a producer along with MARK MITTEN on a forthcoming feature-length documentary film on the life of Ted Hall and his wife of 51 years, Joan Hall. A Participant Film, “A Compassionate Spy” is directed by STEVE JAMES and will be released in theaters this coming summer. Lindorff has finished a book on Ted Hall titled “A Spy for No Country,” to be published this Fall by Prometheus Press.