Sunday, September 25, 2005

Purging the Poor

Wealthy white folk who could afford to live on higher land in New Orleans have been cleared to go back home. Poor black folk who lived in the low-lying areas still cannot return. Will they ever? Not if policy makers have their way. There is a push to rebuild New Orleans into a sort of new New England, says Naomi Klein. Her article in The Nation shows how the reconstruction is becoming another example of disaster profiteering, as well as a sort of ethnic cleansing.

Instead of providing housing in New Orleans itself (Klein estimates there are 23,270 vacant apartments in the dry areas, which could easily house 70,000 evacuees) the 200,000 homeless are scattered and separated, and many have no means to return. This means they will be unable to affect decisions, leaving policy totally up to the white elite minority, whose main advantage was being able to afford altitude.

When the poor majority is excluded from decisions, you get horribly unjust ideas like getting rid of wage laws (somehow giving poor workers less money is supposed to be helpful), repealing environmental regulations, introducing flat taxes and corporate tax breaks, etc. These policies have either already been adopted or will be soon.

What are the results? Probably a radically different New Orleans. Certainly a huge cash cow in the form of no-bid contracts:
"Reconstruction," whether in Baghdad or New Orleans, has become shorthand for a massive uninterrupted transfer of wealth from public to private hands, whether in the form of direct "cost plus" government contracts or by auctioning off new sectors of the state to corporations.

There is an insatiable greed on brazen display here. Gated communities protected by militias amount to wealth and power hoarding. Getting rid of the poor (who are a visible indicator of the failures of this wealthiest nation in history) by carting them away or ghettoizing them rather than helping them to get out of the state of poverty just makes no sense! It is unfathomable to me that the powers that be can justify handouts to oil companies for things like subsidized oil exploration, (or tax break for the wealthy), but they can't justify a mandatory living wage?

After all, class matters, and it's certainly not getting any better. If you are unfortunate to be in the wrong class I guess you are SOL.

Shouts out to the Common Ground Collective, anarchist activists providing free medical treatment to residents in the Algiers neighbourhood. They will not only provide temporary emergency care; they are working to create an ongoing community controlled clinic. Listen here.

More on Hurricane Katrina.
More on Poverty & Class Issues.


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