Aug 31, 2015
What has the government done to improve its ability to protect the population from natural disasters since Katrina? Very little. It just didn’t spend the money.
But over the same period, the government found trillions of dollars to hand over to the banks and other financial parasites that caused the economic crisis of 2008.
If New Orleans were to be hit by another strong hurricane, the same levees could give out or be bypassed. The same low-lying black working class areas, hard hit the first time and not well improved since then, could be inundated all over again. There still is no public transit which the population could use if it had to evacuate quickly. There isn’t more hospital space. In other words, a new natural disaster would quickly turn into another social catastrophe.
And it’s not just New Orleans. The bridge over the Mississippi river that collapsed seven years ago killing 13 people was replaced by a bridge that is already deteriorating. It has concrete pillars beset by cracks, wide stretches of rust on metal works, a drainage pipe dangling from the understructure. The authorities tell us the replacement bridge won’t collapse, but neither did they predict the first collapse. In any case, there is one thing we do know: big companies construct bridges not to be as safe as possible, but to draw as much profits out of the construction contracts as possible.
All over the country, there are substandard bridges – one in nine is ranked “structurally deficient” today. Seventy-six billion dollars needs to be spent right now just to redo these bridges in critical shape before another one of them collapses. There are more than 4,000 critically deficient dams. The country has 100,000 miles of levees, touching all fifty states, and most of them have never even been inspected. No one even knows what risks of catastrophic flooding exist – but the population has lived through the results, not only in New Orleans, but all up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers every spring. And just this past spring, a dam almost collapsed near Dallas, Texas, threatening hundreds of thousands of people.
Wastewater and storm drainage systems, roads, railroad crossings, public transit, drinking water – you name it, it needs fixing.
But while the government has let the infrastructure rot, it has found trillions to hand to the banks and big corporations. It found at least two trillion dollars to bail out the banks and speculators in just the first two years after the 2008 financial collapse. That’s trillion, with a “t.” That’s two thousand billion dollars given to those parasites. And since then, it has continued to hand them money in many different ways.
A small fraction of that money could have fixed every bridge and tunnel, every levee and water system in the country. It could have built roads and public transportation systems in many cities. And in doing so, it would have created jobs. But that’s not how capitalism works.
When the money of the financial parasites was threatened in 2008, the government found all that the banks could possibly want. For them, that was a real crisis because it threatened profits. And ever since then, the government has been pouring more money at those same banks, that same financial system.
But when Katrina killed 1800 people and destroyed a large section of a major city, the government couldn’t find the money to make sure it never happened again.
What kind of backward system is it that we live under? Capitalism has money to burn, but none to spend on what is necessary for the population.
Capitalism has always put the needs of the population after the need to amass profit. But everything in this world eventually grows old and gets more decrepit – and capitalism has long been one of those old decrepit things. Far past its prime, it should have been put into the grave long ago.