LAST WEEK, I watched MSNBCs Joe Scarborough interview George Bushs former Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, about the impact of the presidents unpopularity on the current election. For most of the conversation, Card defended his former boss until he was asked if it was Hurricane Katrina that marked the moment when the majority of Americans lost faith in Bushs leadership.
In a moment of honesty, Andy confirmed that notion and then personally accepted the blame for the governments response to the worst natural disaster in our nations history. You wanna know Scarboroughs response? Some lame joke about how hed rather blame Andy, a Massachusetts native, for the Red Sox not making it to the World Series.
Good Lord! Here we have one of the most powerful men in government at the time Katrina hit willing to take responsibility for the administrations failure to act, and the only thing Scarborough can do is compare the loss of 1,800 American lives to the dashed expectations of Ben Affleck and all his chowdah-eating cousins?
Whats worse is that Scarboroughs lack of regard for the situation down in the Gulf Coast regionwhich has been hit by about a thousand hurricanes in the past five years is a sentiment reflected in the lack of progress in rebuilding the region. Three years post- Katrina and upgrades to the levee-system wont be completed until 2011; only about half of the funds allocated to Louisiana for reconstruction work have been delivered; and recently 70 percent of area residents said they have seen little in the way of controlling crime or securing affordable housing.
Now unlike Kanye, Im not here to make white people feel any guiltier than they already do. Im not even here to urge you to donate more money to charities assisting in the recovery effort. Nope, Im here to deliver a message to President Obama that if he wants to make good on his campaign promise to rebuild the economy, then he better begin down in Nawlins.
(Yep, I said it: President Obama. Sarah Palin might as well go ahead and apply for a job at the Neiman Marcus where she bought that new $150,000 wardrobe, cuz my boy Barack is about six days from opening a major
can of electoral whoop-ass on John McCain.) So, now that weve dispensed with the political prognostication, lets get down to businessliterally.
While I agree with the historical and cultural arguments for rebuilding New Orleanshell, any city that inspired both A Streetcar Named Desire and the Girls Gone Wild series is a-OK by methe economic reasons for doing so are all the more pressing. Seven of the top 10 busiest ports in the U.S. are found along the Gulf Coast, accounting for 20 percent of our overall global trade. Over 3,800 oil and natural gas platforms are in the region, with Louisiana accounting for nearly a quarter of the nations domestic supply of oil. Not only did Hurricane Katrina damage and/or destroy much of the infrastructure that supports these ports and platforms, many of the naturally occurring barrier islands and wetlands that would normally prevent future storm damage are no longer present. And lets not forget that many companies have stopped insuring homeowners or raised premiums to prohibitive levels. If you cant afford insurance on your home, then why stay and work those oil platforms? Its probably a contributing factor to why a recent survey found that 22 percent of area residents are seriously considering leaving the region. And you thought energy prices were high in 2008. Now even though Bammers will have his hands ridiculously full from day onetwo wars, record home foreclosures and ever-increasing unemploymentI firmly believe that an intensive, Cabinet-level focus on rebuilding the Gulf States will directly address
many of these challenges.
First, these individual states must have access to a greater number of their National Guard troops to assist in evacuations when future hurricanes threaten. Reducing the number of units stationed in Iraq will accomplish this. Second, the wetlands and barrier islands along the coast should be restored and levee upgrades must be completed ahead of schedule (six years to build some damn walls
the Chinese must be laughing their socks off). Efforts like these will reduce insurance premiums and make it more financially feasible for people to build and own homes. Third, damaged ports, bridges, highways and power and gas lines must be rebuilt using the latest technology; doing so will not only create jobs and increase local tax bases but also reduce energy and transportation costs across the board.
When Katrina hit, we as a nation said: Never again. Then Hurricanes Rita, Dolly, Gustav and Ike came along. Do we really think that Hurricanes Raekwon, Ol Dirty Bastard and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan arent far behind? If we dont repair the current environmental and infrastructural destruction the damage caused by future storms to our energy supply and global trade will be even costlier.
So congratulations, Mr. President: You have your work cut out for you. But if after four years Joe Scarborough is able to highlight the thriving economy in New Orleans as a reason for your popularity, perhaps Ill be able to offer you a similar congrats four years from now. C