At a time of a city in dire distress, how could there be people who loot guns and TV sets when everybody is suffering? Why don’t they all pull together in a humanitarian way?
Typical “good liberal” question. So let’s answer it. Let’s take a little tour around the NY Times today, to help you understand why there’s looting in New Orleans. We’ll be reading between the lines, children, because we start with this little fact: 67% of New Orleans is black, and accordingly, poor.
1. From a David Brooks editorial:
What’s happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor.
2. Now, a story about the looting itself. Being the NY Times, they’re too polite to mention that the looters are black and poor, but bear that in mind.
Owners Take Up Arms as Looters Press Their Advantage:
Across New Orleans, the rule of law, like the city’s levees, could not hold out after Hurricane Katrina. The desperate and the opportunistic took advantage of an overwhelmed police force and helped themselves to anything that could be carried, wheeled or floated away, including food, water, shoes, television sets, sporting goods and firearms.
One woman outside a Sav-a-Center on Tchoupitoulas Street was loading food, soda, water, bread, peanut butter and canned food into the trunk of a gray Oldsmobile. “Yes, in a sense it’s wrong, but survival is the name of the game,” said the woman, who would not identify herself. “I’ve got six grandchildren. We didn’t know this was going to happen. The water is off. We’re trying to get supplies we need.”
3. Now, what could be the explanation for people looting when they should be pulling together in a humanitarian way? Is it because they are too poor to care? Here’s a NY Times article about the U.S. poverty rate being up last year. For U.S. poverty rate, read black poverty rate (we’re reading between the lines, remember).
Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. It was the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five straight years. The census’s annual report card on the nation’s economic well-being showed that a four-year-old expansion had still not done much to benefit many households. Median pretax income, $44,389, was at its lowest point since 1997, after inflation.
“It looks like the gains from the recovery haven’t really filtered down,” said Phillip L. Swagel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington. “The gains have gone to owners of capital and not to workers.”
4. The NY Times gets properly upset about this:
Life in the Bottom 80 Percent:
Economic growth isn’t what it used to be. In 2004, the economy grew a solid 3.8 percent. But for the fifth straight year, median household income was basically flat, at $44,389 in 2004, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. That’s the longest stretch of income stagnation on record.
…lawmakers have stubbornly refused to raise the minimum wage: $5.15 an hour since 1997. They will also be taking up proposals for deep budget cuts in programs that ameliorate income inequality, like Medicaid, food stamps and federal student loans.
They should be ashamed of themselves.
5. The NY Times also gets properly upset with our President about this:
Waiting for a Leader:
…Nothing about the president’s demeanor yesterday – which seemed casual to the point of carelessness – suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.
6. Now, let’s switch media and go over to Salon.com to see what they say about flood control in New Orleans and you’ll have more reason to get upset about our President. Sidney Blumenthal writes:
No one can say they didn’t see it coming:
…A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut the Corps of Engineers’ request for holding back the waters of New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans levees, but it was too late.
As Bitch Ph.D points out, “as bad as the hurricane itself was, it was really the broken levee afterwards that destroyed the city.”
CONCLUSION: One unforeseen consequence of the Iraq War is the destruction of New Orleans. When we bombed Baghdad, we were bombing New Orleans at the same time. Why is New Orleans suffering? Because they’re black and poor. Why did they loot? Because they’re black and poor.
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