ITWASSOOTED: Who Lost New Orleans?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Who Lost New Orleans?

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers
September 21, 2005

“If some people are foolish enough to live below sea level, or in flood plains, or in earthquake zones, why should the rest of us bail them out when an expected disaster strikes?”

It’s an old complaint revived, of course, by the catastrophe visited upon the Gulf states by Hurricane Katrina. It states, in effect, that the citizens of New Orleans and other devastated communities in the region are have only themselves to blame for their misfortune.

Similarly, prudent individuals will not chose to live alongside great rivers like the Mississippi, or along active tectonic zones (i.e., the entire Pacific coast), or in eastern cities such as New York, which attract terrorists, or in the St. Louis/Memphis region, the site of the New Madrid earthquake of 1812 – the most violent US earthquake in recorded history . I guess we should all pack up and move to Kansas instead.

Oh wait! They have tornadoes, don’t they?

Who is Responsible for New Orleans’ Safety?

The free-market absolutist libertarian right proclaims, in Ayn Rand’s words, that “there is no such entity as .. ‘the public’ ... only a number of individual men.” (Rand: “The Objectivist Ethics”). Thus the optimal society emerges “automatically,” through an unregulated free market, from the self-serving economic activity of individuals and families.

By extension, apologists for the Bush Administration’s neglect of the pre-Katrina safety and the post-Katrina recovery seem to be telling us that “there is no such entity as ‘the nation,’ there are only states and ‘regions,’ whose responsibility it is to look after their own safety and recovery.

This policy is articulated in an e-mail of uncertain origin that I received last week, which states a now-familiar cop-out of the Bush-defense team:

In case you aren’t familiar with how our government is supposed to work: the chain of responsibility for the protection of the citizens of New Orleans is:

1. The Mayor of New Orleans
2. The New Orleans director of Homeland Security.
3. The Governor of Louisiana
4. The [Secretary] of Homeland Security.
5. The President of the United States.
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