9.14.2008

Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Katrina & the Cesspool of American Politics

by Jeff Siegel

Two things you won’t hear in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike that you did hear after Hurricane Katrina: First, there’s no need to rebuild Houston, and we should even think about abandoning it. What’s the point of pouring money and materiel into Houston when the same thing could happen the next time there’s a strong hurricane? Please see those wonderful humanitarians, Gary Becker and Richard Posner, who made that argument about New Orleans. And that would be the Richard Posner — so nice to to see a federal judge blow off New Orleans.

Second, Texans are just lazy. If they had taken proper precautions, none of this would have happened. This was one of my favorite refrains after Katrina — that New Orleanians brought the destruction on themselves. As I write this, almost two million homes in the Houston area are without electricity, and the power may be out for weeks. So much for being prepared.

Why won’t you hear those things? Because the Houston metro area is more wealthy and more Anglo than New Orleans. It doesn’t hurt that the president, who is wealthy and Anglo, grew up in Houston, either.

American politics is about class and race in a way it has not been in the 25 years I have been writing about politics. It’s not just that the rich and the white think they’re better than the rest of us; they probably always thought that. This time, though, they don’t care what we think, and they aren’t embarrassed or ashamed for feeling that way.

And if we dare to object, they say we’re being unfair: That we’re engaging in class warfare. Of course, what they fail to mention is that they have all the weapons.

(Political graphic by AZRainman, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. To see more of AZRainman's work, please check out his blog.)









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4 comments:

Liberal Arts Dude said...

Hi Jeff

You said:

American politics is about class and race in a way it has not been in the 25 years I have been writing about politics. It’s not just that the rich and the white think they’re better than the rest of us; they probably always thought that. This time, though, they don’t care what we think, and they aren’t embarrassed or ashamed for feeling that way.

This is also something that I detect in the current political culture in the US. And this depresses the hell out of me. How did we get this far down where the sense of shame about being on the winning end of an unjust situation is not there anymore?

Jeff Siegel said...

I don't want to get all intellectual, but one of the things that has always distinguished the U.S. from the rest of the world was what de Tocqueville called our spirit of compassion.

Sadly, that's gone. You can blame Reaganomics, whose philosophical basis was that compassion wasn't as important as getting rich. You can attribute it to the economic changes and the resulting insecurities brought on by the change from a manufacturing to an information economy.

Whatever the reason, it's another example of how far we've fallen, and how little the political elite understands or cares.

Anonymous said...

Since You mentioned the race issue, I would like to as well. What color is the President right now?
My wife and I live in a marina that hasn't had Electricity since hurriane IKE. We rode out hurricane Ike on our boat and still live in the same place as before Ike -but- they still haven't fixed power to our side of the marina. Oh and we're white. Rather than complain until we forced someone else to fix the problem, I installed solar panels & wind generators one at a time over the past two and a half years. (paid for by us with no help from the government)
After Ike, the government gave us no financial assistance because they claim our 61 foot vessel is not a "home" even though we've lived aboard for 7 years.
You say "whites think they are better than the rest of us"?
Well, I fought for your right to say it and I would again Just like my family has done for generations all the way back to the civil war. Oh and my family has always been from the North. I'm a vet who served during desert shield/desert storm. I do however think thats whats wrong with the whole country, everyone wants to complain and blame. This is OUR country. We are the smartest animals on the planet and if we don't act like it and fix these problems we've created then no one will. I don't think the birds and bee's will.

Anonymous said...

obviously your not from the Houston area. Yes it has wealthy people but it also has poor, to try and compare Houston to New Orleans is silly. I went through Hurricane Ike it devestated my town and I lost many childhood friends and my home, but FEMA gave us nothing however hurricane Katrina victims got everything they asked for. Houston is a huge city and for you to think it is so much more wealthy is funny because we have many people of different race and ethnicity there who struggle every day. Another thing many Hurricane Katrina victims took refuge in Houston and made it their new home, so not only did fellow hosutonians go through Ike but those from New Orleans did too.

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