Monday, May 28, 2007

Politics, Race & Katrina Reconstruction

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, here's your response for the next time some closet bigot or one of their enablers asks you why the folks in the 9th Ward of New Orleans can't "get their act together" like those can-do, salt-of-the-earth, real Americans in Mississippi...

Since Katrina, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has received heaps of praise for his political savvy -- and ability to use his GOP connections to get a lion's share of federal relief funds for his state.

But with all the honors and money, how is the Mississippi recovery going? My colleague Sue Sturgis and I investigate in a special report published at Salon today.

One eye-opening item we found is just how lopsided Mississippi's take of Katrina relief has been:

Consider the Gulf Coast housing crisis, one of the key issues that has kept nearly half the population of New Orleans from returning to the city since Katrina. More than 75 percent of the housing damage from the storm was in Louisiana, but Mississippi has received 70 percent of the funds through FEMA's Alternative Housing Pilot Program. Of the $388 million available, FEMA gave a Mississippi program offering upgraded trailers more than $275 million. Meanwhile, the agency awarded Louisiana's "Katrina Cottage" program, which features more permanent modular homes for storm victims, a mere $75 million.

This truly gives the lie to all the finger-waggers in conservative talk radio land, on our television screens, on the web and in print who hold up the relative progress of Mississippi's reconstruction as a example of a self-reliant community picking itself up without the aid of government "hand-outs". For years now we've listened to these windbags excoriate the residents of New Orleans for supposedly demanding government handouts while they, being morally depraved and underserving of empathy, do nothing for themselves, unlike those plucky residents of Mississippi.

Well, hardy-har-har. Looky where all the "handouts" went after all. You will, of course, hear nothing of this from any of these people.

[More after the jump]

Now, what's the difference between Lousiana and Mississippi that might account for this disparity? Well, MS has a Republican governor and LA has a Democratic one. But that's not the only reason to suspect that the disparity is borne of pure political motivation. The grossly under-reported appointment of none other than Karl Rove himself, Maximum Ruler's Chief Political Advisor, as the "Czar" of Gulf Coast reconstruction is the smoking gun in this case. By "Czar" I'm assuming that means he controlled how it was run and it appears that he decided the money should go to Mississippi and it's Republican governor instead of Louisiana, where the bulk of the devastation occured.

Is anyone really surprised by this? Putting the political goals and interests of the GOP generally and George W. Bush specifically ahead of the public good is not just a bug in how the Bush administration operates. It's a feature. It is a defining characteristic of literally everything they do.

But here's the thing that should make the blood of any Louisiana resident's blood run cold. Bush carried the state of Louisiana by an overwhelming margin in each of the last two presidential elections. They voted him in en masse and he, in turn, did this to them.

That really is the big picture in a nutshell. Bush and GOP plays on a wide array of boogeymen to get people to vote for them. They hold themselves up as stalwarts against the perceived intrusions of one hated group or another and a certain segment of the population buys it to their eventual peril.

So people vote for Bush and Republicans because they they think these folks will "git the blacks", "git the faggots", "git the A-Rabs", the immigrants, the liberals, the secular humanists or whoever happens to be the right's Satan of the Month at the time. But in the end, the only people they're is really going "git" is YOU.