Thursday, September 01, 2005

Public good, and the economics of disaster

The particular combination of specific policy decisions that collectively led to the disaster on the Gulf Coast is just part of an ongoing war against the concept of the public good. From an article by Chris Floyd:

"But as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated 'consumer units' whose political energies kept deliberately underinformed by the ubiquitous corporate media can be diverted into emotionalized 'hot button' issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

Again deliberately, with smear, spin and sham, they have sought and succeeded in poisoning the well of the democratic process, turning it into a tabloid melee where only 'character counts' while the rapacious policies of Big Money's bought-and-sold candidates are completely ignored. As Big Money solidified its ascendancy over government, pouring billions over and under the table into campaign coffers, politicians could ignore larger and larger swathes of the people. If you can't hook yourself up to a well-funded, coffer-filling interest group, if you can't hire a big-time Beltway player to lobby your cause and get you 'a seat at the table,' then your voice goes unheard, your concerns are shunted aside. (Apart from a few cynical gestures around election-time, of course.) The poor, the sick, the weak, the vulnerable have become invisible in the media, in the corporate boardroom, 'at the table' of the power players in national, state and local governments. The increasingly marginalized and unstable middle class is also fading from the consciousness of the rulers, whose servicing of the elite goes more brazen and frantic all the time."

They had about a week to shore up the levees, evacuate the poor, and prepare for disaster management. They knew all the details of the full scope of the disaster, and the official warnings were as bleak as any official warnings can be. They didn't try to do anything. Bush golfed and pretended to play guitar. Since the funding, manpower, and equipment that would normally be used for such purposes was in Iraq, trying to do something constructive would only have embarrassed them, so they just relaxed and let it happen. Needless to say, the next step will be the announcement of billions of dollars of reconstruction contracts for Halliburton and Bechtel, thus proving that Bush really does care. Disaster is another opportunity to make money, while trying to stop disaster is just a drain on public finances.