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Is the US Really That Much Different Than Haiti?

A good friend of mine recently visited Haiti. This got me to thinking about why the poverty in Haiti is so severe and intractable.

Consider Haiti. Once slaves freed themselves and took over the island, their French tormentors threatened to invade with a massive force if the struggling society did not pay for its freedom. France wanted an amount equal to all former plantation property, including the lost value of the people themselves. France enforced this indemnity between 1825 and 2010, declaring it void only after an earthquake killed thousands in Port-au-Prince. The total amount charged against the country would be worth somewhere between $20 billion and $40 billion today. It sapped Haiti’s national income and stifled its development.

From Ramp Hollow by Steven Stoll

It might seem that poverty-stricken Haiti has nothing in common with the wealthy United States of America. Let’s examine that. In 2008-2009, the U.S. government gave the banks a $13 trillion bailout which, among other things, allowed the banks to continue to push countless people into the streets through foreclosure. At this moment in Los Angeles alone there are 1,400 homeless encampments. They bear a striking resemblance to the poorest neighborhoods in Haiti.

Give us back our thirteen trillion dollars or give us back our homes.

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

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