Sunday, April 14, 2013

For Every Disaster, There's a Golden Lining

Trey Smith

An incisive analysis by sociologists Kevin Fox Gotham and Miriam Greenberg of what happened after the 9/11 attacks in New York and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina offers some concrete forebodings. Everyone knows that, as soon as Katrina made landfall, the racial divisions of New Orleans became the scandal of the month when it came to which communities were drowned and which got helped, who got arrested (and shot), and who left town forever. To be poor in New Orleans during and after Katrina was a curse. To be poor and black amounted to excommunication.

Gotham and Greenberg prove that, post-9/11 and post-Katrina, reconstruction and rehabilitation was also skewed heavily in favor of the business community and the wealthier. In both cities, big business controlled the redevelopment process—and so where the money landed and where it didn't.

Tax breaks and private sector subsidies became channels for federal aid. 'Public benefit' standards, which once accompanied federal grants and tax exemptions to insure that projects served some public purpose, especially to 'benefit persons of low and moderate income,' were eliminated, leaving poorer people out in the cold, while exacerbating existing inequalities. Governments scurried around inventing ways to auction off reconstruction projects to private interests by issuing tax exempt 'Private Activity Bonds.' These were soon gloriously renamed 'Liberty Bonds,' though the unasked question was: Whose liberty?
~ from A History of Disaster Capitalism by Steve Fraser ~
The way our economic system works is that, regardless of the situation, there always will be winners and losers. This is as true when things are going great as when things are going badly. While most of us common folk dread war and natural disasters, there is a small segment of the population that is chomping at the bit for the next war or natural disaster to hit. In fact, chomping at the bit is an understatement -- it suggests passive waiting. As is often the case, this small segment of the population actively tries to precipitate wars and natural disasters.

Why do you think America can't break its war addiction? While war means death, injury, dislocation and destruction to the majority, the small minority profits handsomely. Perpetual war, in conjunction with the national security state, keeps the spigot of taxpayer dollars flowing to the few and, with so much easy money to be made, this minority is loath to have the spigot turned off.

When your economic system is built on the premise of profits before people, "natural" disasters become the minority's best friend. Because these disasters are like a fatted calf, you will go out of your way to do all that you can to set the stage for them to occur. And, when they inevitably DO occur, you will swoop in to steal as much public money as your well-placed government servants will allow.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.