Katrina devastation five years later shows folly of relying on Corporate America for recovery
Five years ago next Sunday, Hurricane Katrina made landfall just East of New Orleans. Despite warnings, the levees protecting the city gave way (thanks in part to the Bush Administration slashing funding for levee reconstruction). The city was devastated. Five years later, the New Orleans suburbs look like a ghost town, vacant lots overgrown with weeds & brush. Think about how much was lost… not just in property damage, but in lost lives as well… due mostly to the Bush Administration trying to save a few bucks by scrimping on rebuilding the levees (aka: “infrastructure”). But I’m not here to relitigate the failures of the Bush Administration or the local government that day. I’m here to point out the stupidity of leaving such a huge economic recovery project up to the private sector… a mistake President Obama seems to be repeating.
The reason so much of New Orleans still looks as though the hurricane struck yesterday is because the Bush Administration decided to leave the reconstruction of New Orleans up to big business. Nearly two weeks after the storm had passed, President Bush, promising “one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen”, proposed creation of a “Gulf Opportunity Zone” that would grant new and existing businesses $200 million in tax breaks, loans and loan guarantees through 2007, while offering little to nothing in the way of reconstruction and reinvestment funds for the general population. When it comes to helping the poor, with no taxes to cut, the only thing Republicans can think to do is hand out cash (remember “$300 Stimulus Checks”?) rather than… gulp… create a government job (“That’s Socialism!”). So they came up with the “FEMA Credit Card” program, and naturally fraud ensued, cutting the program short. And rather than pay rent to house the now-homeless, they purchased tens of thousands of toxic, sub-standard “FEMA trailers” that the government was stuck with once they had been condemned or were no longer needed. Brilliant. Instead, damaged homes were torn down and replaced with low-rent apartments. Parks, libraries or other infrastructure? Forgedaboudit. The Bush Administration… much like Herbert Hoover at the dawn of the Great Depression… decided that “private industry” and “free enterprise” would eventually rush in to save the day, expand, create jobs, and put the country back to work. But what Conservatives don’t get is that people with no jobs and no money means “no business” to justify the expansion that Republicans stubbornly believe will create jobs. It failed in 1929, it failed in 2005, and it’s continuing to fail today.
I’ve pointed out previously that “some things are just too big for Corporate America to do on their own”. The Internet, for one. A global computer network that has transformed not only commerce, but the free exchange of information, and the entire world. No one private corporation, nor even a global conglomerate, could of laid down the infrastructure that makes up the Internet. During the Great Depression, FDR believed it was the role of government to put people back to work so that they’d have money to put back into the economy. Republicans love to claim “World War II ended the Depression, not FDR’s programs!” This… of course… is an assertion pulled directly out of their butt with NO evidence to back it up. But to them, if it “sounds right”, and it denies Democrats of a victory, it MUST be true. It’s not. For all intents and purposes, the Depression was over by 1939 (two years before we entered the war and the same year Hitler invaded Poland.) I’ve written about this cockamamie assertion on numerous occasions over the years. And I’m (slowly) working on a video this holiday season that debunks the claim in a rather unique way.
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 didn’t cause The Great Depression. Initially it was “land-speculation”… people buying cheap property only to resell it for a quick profit, compounded by people buying stock in shadow corporations… existing almost solely on paper… to turn a quick profit in the stock market. Sound familiar? The Crash was more of a high-water mark (pun not intended) in the growing economic crisis just months into Herbert Hoover’s presidency. (The very first Marx Brothers movie, “The Coconuts”, premiered just before the ’29 Stock Market Crash and deals with the subject of “a get rich quick scheme via land speculation”.)
A strict Conservative, Hoover decided to leave the monumental task of fixing the economic crisis up to the very people who caused it in the first place, Corporate America and Wall Street. The result was an economic meltdown similar to what we are seeing today. Businesses don’t spend money to produce goods & services if there’s no one out there to buy them, and people without jobs weren’t buying enough to create a demand. Stalemate. It wasn’t until the election of President Franklin Roosevelt nearly four years later that his WPA (“Work Program of America”) started putting people back to work, putting money into the hands of consumers so they could start buying things and get the economy moving again.
George W. Bush mimicked Herbert Hoover in many many ways, but chief among them was his response (or lack there of) to rebuilding (or NOT rebuilding) New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina… deciding to leave it up to the “private sector”. And now, I fear, we are seeing President Obama repeat those same mistakes, offering little in the way of Government Work Programs. Hiring a few teachers and repaving a few roads is not NEARLY enough to revitalize a $12 TRILLION DOLLAR ECONOMY. This country needs a massive infrastructure program like the WPA to not only put people back to work, but build infrastructure that adds value to our cities and neighborhoods for decades to come.
At the time the government completed the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 (connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan), it was the tallest structure on either side. 113 years later, it is dwarfed by the skyscrapers it helped to create (by providing easy access to the city). Still traveled by some 125,000 vehicles a day, there is no question that Manhattan… now the largest city in the U.S…. would not be the business mecca that gives “The Empire State” its name today if not for the Brooklyn Bridge. The ROI (“Return-On-Investment”) from building it is incalculable.
When this country spends money investing in our infrastructure and its people, it always either saves money or even turns a huge profit. Trying to do things “on the cheap” by simply giving tax cuts to people who ALREADY have hoards of cash…
…out of some absurd belief that “if they have just a little more money, they’ll start hiring people to fill a demand that doesn’t exist”, is ridiculous. It doesn’t work. It has never worked before and it won’t work now. Sorry to be so repetitious, but DEMAND creates jobs. No one ever created a job there was no demand for simply because they had a few extra bucks in their pocket.
I criticize President Obama in this way only because I think he has the capacity to wise up & “change”. I hold out no such hope should he be replaced with a Republican successor.
(Again, if you haven’t signed my Green Jobs petition, please do so now. If you have, please be sure to forward it on to your friends using the “Share This” tool on that page.)
This weeks list of reasons to keep Republicans from regaining power:
- Republican Senate candidate for Washington State Dino Rossi believes that 1/3 of his state is in the Top 2% making over $200,000 a year.
- 19 of the 22 states suing ObamaCare are taking money appropriated by the new Obamacare law. – Doh!
- GOP House candidate Allen West (R-FL) believes people calling for peace and religious tolerance via ‘Coexist’ Bumper Stickers on their cars Want To ‘Give Away Our Country’.
- Indiana’s Republican Senate candidate Dan Coats admits that he has no idea how much his “job creation plan”, which slashes tax on corporations and the rich, will cost. They rant & rave over the size of the Deficit, then propose budgets that slash tax revenue without any investigation into what effect those policies will have on the deficit.
- Rep. Marsha Blackburn: If The GOP Takes Back Congress, Our Priority Will Be To Repeal Health Reform – Blackburn isn’t alone. She’s referring to a petition circulated by NY Rep Peter King. To date, all but seven House Republicans have signed the pledge.
- Every single Republican running for the U.S. Senate seat from New Hampshire is a global warming denier. – And they’re not too sure about Gravity either.
- For the fourth week in a row, Sunday talk hosts pushed Republicans to explain how they intend to pay for making the Bush Tax Cut on the Top 2% permanent while screaming about the Deficit. This week, it was “Meet the Press” host David Gregory’s turn, pushing Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on how they intend to pay the cut, with Mitchy asking “Why” all of a sudden are tax cuts “something we have to pay for?” Because you made the Deficit an issue, asshat.
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