Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nice to have friends ...

From the Weekly Standard (

After Katrina:
Three things President Bush could have done to curb the political fall-out.
by Fred Barnes
08/29/2006 12:00:00 AM

HURRICANE KATRINA caused the greatest natural disaster in American history. President Bush couldn't change that. But Katrina also was a political disaster for the president. And Bush, given a year to think about it, realizes he could have avoided that. What might the president have done differently? At least three things, starting with his decision two days after the levees broke--and New Orleans began to flood--to fly over the city in Air Force One without landing. Bush now knows he should have landed.


It's nice to know the self-described leading "conservative" news magazine thinks Job No. 1 and Problem No. 1 with the continued devastation of New Orleans, Louisiana is ... protecting the President's bum area from a nasty political diaper rash.

It's also bad when the very first two sentences of your 1,000 word essay are flat out wrong. The devastation of New Orleans was caused by human error. The fact that half of the population of New Orleans still cannot move back to their homes is due to human error. The fact that nobody today can tell these 200,000 citizens when or if they can ever move back to New Orleans is due to continued human error. But for Mr. Barnes, Job. 1 is protecting the President from any responsibility for any part of these human errors.


Here's a very different take ...

August 31, 2006

How to Reduce Urban Poverty Without Really Trying
By Robert B. Reich

Even though the national economy keeps growing, the number of impoverished Americans doesn't drop. According to the latest census report, household incomes edged up slightly in 2005. But 37 million people are still living below the poverty line, about the same as in 2004. (Small comfort: Last year was the first one poverty hasn’t actually increased since 2000, just before Bush took office.) About one out of four New Yorkers, for example, is living in poverty. New York’s mayor has appointed a commission to come up with ways to reduce that number.

Before Katrina hit, about one in four residents of New Orleans was also living in poverty. Today, New Orleans’ poverty rate is much lower. But that’s not because it did anything New York or any other city should try to emulate. New Orleans lowered its poverty rate by having a flood that wiped out the homes of its poor, and then made it hard for them to ever come back.

More than half of the people who lived in New Orleans before Katrina have still not returned. The poor have no place to return to. Their former houses are in rubble. Housing projects are closed. Poor neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward are still devastated. Inexpensive housing, even rental housing, is hard to find.

It’s an old story, really. Areas of any town or city where the infrastructure is most ignored – like the Industrial Canal levee that burst on the morning of August 29 a year ago – have the lowest property values. So that’s where the poor live. When there’s a flood or a leak of toxic wastes or any other calamity, these places are the first to become uninhabitable. Which means, the poor often have to leave. Then the political and moral question is whether anyone cares enough to help them return and rebuild.

Sometimes cities actively try to get rid of their poorest citizens. Not long ago officials in Fall River, Massachusetts, tried to raze a low income housing project and not replace it with any other affordable housing. Other cities have been known to give the poor one-way bus tickets out of state.

But more often it’s a matter of simply doing nothing. Last September, President Bush promised more than sixty billion dollars for the first stages of getting New Orleans back on its feat. But he made that money contingent of the city of New Orleans developing a recovery plan. The mayor of New Orleans appointed a commission to do that, but nothing came of it. The congressman who represents New Orleans came up with a proposal but the White House rejected it. The New Orleans City Council seems deadlocked. The governor of Louisiana had her own commission but it hasn’t come up with a plan, either. A year after Katrina and there’s no plan to redevelop its poorest neighborhoods, no housing for the displaced, barely a trickle of money to help them.

And since the poor who used to live in New Orleans don’t have their own money to rebuild there, they’ll probably stay where they are now – in Houston or Dallas or Birmingham or Jackson, Mississippi. At least until those cities figure out how to reduce their own poverty rates and send the poor somewhere else.

-- Guest contributor Robert B. Reich was Labor Secretary during the Clinton administration and is now a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

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