September 6, 2005


Katrina returns the poor of inner city to forefront (Peter S. Canellos, September 6, 2005, Boston Globe)

The notion that a disaster offers a mirror to the country, forcing a bitter reconsideration of its own condition, should not be a surprise. It happened in the United States with the 1927 Louisiana flood, a catastrophe that shook American politics in its time. [...]

The death toll was 246, but 700,000 people -- half of them black -- were displaced. Then, as now, haunting pictures and descriptions of the devastation shocked the country. Many blacks were herded into unsanitary evacuation camps.

Amid rising public anger, Herbert Hoover -- then the secretary of commerce -- swept in to oversee relief efforts. Hoover won high marks for his take-charge attitude, though many scholars believe that black resentment over the way the Republican administration handled relief efforts caused the historic shift in black allegience from the Republican to Democratic Party.

The need for federal action challenged President Calvin Coolidge's belief in small government [...]

Last week, President Bush, while overseeing relief efforts, urged victims to look to faith-based groups for help, a reflection of his preference for nongovernmental solutions. But the 1927 flood is remembered not only for creating the imperative for federal disaster relief, but for ushering in an era of big government.

Perhaps that is why Bush and the Republican-led Congress are rushing to dispel any notion that they were slow off the mark in addressing the crisis. Hurricane Katrina could saturate American politics for a long time.

It'll be tough to beat this one for today's unintentionally hilarious award.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2005 12:00 AM
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