Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Nothing To Be Thankful For

The initial response was slow, embarrassing and deadly. But after several trips, none to the heart of New Orleans, the President finally swaggered through the flood lights in front of the statuesque building in Jackson Square and pledged to “do whatever it takes” and to “clear the ruins and build better than before” as he promised America would rebuild the city of New Orleans that was then, 18 days after the breaching of the levees, nearly empty.

The President, sleeves rolled up and blue jeans on, promised among other things to:

~ Provide $60 billion in initial aid;
- Move evacuees out of temporary shelters by mid-October into apartments;
- Reimburse States for assistance given and pay overtime for service providers and workers;
~ Create jobs for those affected by the storm;
~ Create the “Gulf Opportunity Zone” – a job incentive package and loans to minority businesses;
~ Create the “Worker Recovery Act” – which would have “provided $5,000” for evacuees to draw on for job training, education and child care; and
~ Create the Homesteading Act – providing land, through lottery, so that new homes could be built.

While those plans seemed interesting at the time and may have laid a decent foundation for rebuilding the city, here we stand nearly three months since the breech, two months since the speech and one day before Thanksgiving and only the initial aid has been completed. The president has breeched his promise, speaking nary a word since, Congress has imploded and taken little to no action and America has moved on.

We suppose it’s not fair to say the president hasn't acted. Mr. Bush did eliminate MBE and WBE’s from being used in the area (which is majority African American), suspended prevailing wage in the areas affected (which is one of America’s poorest areas) and has objected “to a bipartisan proposal that would give [Louisiana] up to 40 percent of the more than $5 billion in annual federal revenues generated by Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industries”1 (adversely affecting a state that has had its economy demolished.) So the president has responded in his own way.

The response to Hurricane Katrina, both immediate and long-term, has been completely different than America’s active and constant response to the attacks of September 11th; the response to Katrina has been stagnate, sluggish, and non-responsive.

America’s response immediately after the breech was overwhelming, but the attentiveness to fellow Americans since has seemingly gone the way of the president and Congress and waned. On the lips of nearly every America on August 29th, on November 22nd Americans have moved on and are now discussing their holiday plans from the comfort of their homes and jobs. They do so with the story of August 29th drastically and grotesquely incomplete. Nearly 7,000 people are missing, (a thousand of those are children) and hundred of thousands are displaced, jobless and uncertain of their future.

While America begins its holiday season we hope that at some point during this festive time America and its leaders remember those who continue to suffer from Katrina and renew the work it will take to rebuild the region and recommit to the promises made by the president, so that all America can be thankful at some point this season.