US Government Screws Katrina Survivors

Via Sheezlebub at Pandagon:

The New York Times has an article today about Katrina survivors who are still languishing in FEMA trailers two years after hurricane Katrina.

Let’s put this in just a little context (White House Press Release, President Bush Speaking):

Our first commitment is to meet the immediate needs of those who had to flee their homes and leave all their possessions behind. For these Americans, every night brings uncertainty, every day requires new courage, and in the months to come will bring more than their fair share of struggles.

In addition, we’re taking steps to ensure that evacuees do not have to travel great distances or navigate bureaucracies to get the benefits that are there for them.


Compounding the problem is that many of these people are yet again stranded, but at least the weather is better. The problems are exacerbated–unemployment, the grocery gap, and childcare. They lost their jobs because of the storm, or because they couldn’t get to them from the parks like Sugar Hill, where, if you do not own a car, you are screwed.

Bush (September 15, 2005):

Our second commitment is to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast to overcome this disaster, put their lives back together, and rebuild their communities.

Our goal is to get people out of the shelters by the middle of October.

In the disaster area, and in cities that have received huge numbers of displaced people, we’re beginning to bring in mobile homes and trailers for temporary use.


Because these folks were renters, they did not get grants to rebuild their homes. Their homes have not been rebuilt.

The apartments and public housing where they lived are either gone or slated to be redeveloped. The rents for existing units have skyrocketed, and communities that have these FEMA communities are revoking permits for the trailers or allowing the zoning to expire. They are moving against any kind of assisted housing–including housing for the elderly–because of worries about crime. And when I say crime, I’m pretty sure the meaning is “Black people.”

Keep this firmly in mind when you hear a conservative defending the President. Keep in mind that Bush inherited Reagan’s legacy, and is an example of conservative politics in action. This is what happens when the government does nothing. There is no magic “free market” stepping up to the plate. There is just prolonged suffering.

We can help:

Update: If this makes you angry, go to this site and get the contact info for your Representatives and Senators. Then, contact them and ask them why these people, who have lost everything, are still getting screwed.

Ask them what they are doing to help. Ask them to make a public point of it.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Leigh for this.  Help support H.R. 1227.


5 Responses

  1. This is not an example of a market failure, it’s an example of government incompetence. People pay taxes to have FEMA work; it does not work, ergo taxes are wasted.

    We talked about this a lot in my Local Government Law class. States are organizing their own FEMA agencies along regional lines, which is good, because a regional response is required to disasters. After studying the issues a bit, I think what we should do is forget about the feds ever accomplishing anything worthwhile, and organize regional bodies that operate on the several county size, as well as several state size. I suggested the EPA regional breakdowns could be useful in that regard. The idea being that disasters affect large areas and cross boundaries, so cooperation is important.

  2. If readers do contact their senators, tell them you support H.R. 1227 and S. 1668, the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Acts (or approx. title). Proposed legislation for affordable and public housing and BRINGING PEOPLE HOME.

  3. Bret,
    It is an example of both. The government is not doing its job (incompetence). It is also an example of the private sector either not stepping in to help, or in some cases actively working against the interests of the displaced because it is not percieved to be to their benefit to help.

    The idea that switching from federal to state, alone, is enough to change the balance of competence within government agencies is hogwash. There is nothing to suggest that we cannot have an effective national organization to deal with natural disasters. We just need to resolve to do it, not use it as an excuse to further the “small government” cause.

    Thank you so much for this info.

  4. The problem with contacting the Feds is that their answer is likely to involve taking their trailors back.

  5. Alexia,
    It shouldn’t be likely to involve that. This is a PR disaster for everyone currently in government. Sustained attention should yield pressure to actually help the displaced.

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