The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hurricane Ida Revealed Failings of Capitalism

Sep 13, 2021

Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana bringing destruction, and then carried that devastation right up the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Massachusetts. In Louisiana, people waded through water to stand in long lines for food, water and gasoline. Millions lost power. New Orleans went dark. And this loss of power came with oppressive and dangerous heat and humidity.

More than 2,000 transmission lines and 216 substations were damaged by the hurricane, leaving over a million people powerless. This outage wasn’t supposed to happen. Entergy, the largest power company in Louisiana, spent 100 million dollars on a new natural gas power plant and other grid upgrades. They claimed this upgrade would prevent these devastating power outages—a model of “storm resiliency.”

The company is now being criticized for not doing enough to fortify the power grid against these storms that are increasing in number and intensity. To be clear, this is a company that brought in 10.1 billion dollars in 2020. Entergy can afford to really upgrade and fortify the power grid and not pass the costs on to those who can least afford it—their customers. But they would lose their investors and stockholders. This is how the system works—or doesn’t as in this case. Two weeks after the storm, there are thousands of people without power.

Prior to the storm, more than 800 residents from seven nursing homes were evacuated to a warehouse in Independence, Louisiana. People were lying on mattresses on the floor, not being fed or changed and not being socially distanced to prevent the spread of covid, which is currently ravaging the state. At one point during the storm, water came into the building and some residents had to be moved. On top of these deplorable conditions, one worker said there wasn’t enough staff to properly care for all the residents. Apparently, the owner of the warehouse owns all seven nursing homes. At least seven residents died.

As Ida traveled up the east coast, roads and basements flooded. At least 49 people drowned in their basement apartments, one in Maryland and the rest in New Jersey and New York. Most of the dead were immigrants. They came from Trinidad, Nepal and China. They were busboys, kitchen helpers, and 7-Eleven clerks. They were workers, who could only afford to live underground. They died horribly, because the weight of the water prevented them from opening the doors, and the windows were barred. Their homes had become death traps.

A society based on satisfying human needs, as opposed to one based on making bigger and bigger profits at all costs, could and would do everything possible to prevent the misery and death that rained down on the South and the east coast. A different society, one that is run by the working class—the class that produces all the wealth and does all the work—would not be beholden to stockholders and investors. That society would not make 10 billion dollars in one year because it didn’t fortify its electrical grid. That society would not evacuate its parents and grand- parents to a hell-hole. In a society run by workers, people would be paid decent wages and they would not be forced to live in death traps.

Yes, Hurricane Ida was a bad storm. And according to scientists, there are many more where that one came from, due to the planet warming up. But that is not why any of these people died. They died from the storm called capitalism.