Monday, September 01, 2008

America abandons the poor again

Yep, just three years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is once again abandoning those too poor to leave in the face of danger:

The city will not offer emergency services to those who choose to stay behind, Nagin said, and there will be no "last resort" shelter as there was during Katrina, when thousands were crammed into the Louisiana Superdome in squalid conditions.

In a news release residents were warned that those who remained on their property after the mandatory evacuation started would be subject to arrest.

The former is monstrous, the latter simply an attempt to criminalise poverty. And it will do nothing to remove suspicions in the wake of the post-Katrina economic cleansing of the city.

Once upon a time, government had a basic duty to keep people safe and help with natural disasters. Now even that seems to be too much to expect from America. In a functioning democracy, of course, this would be self-correcting - people would vote to ensure a government that did its job. But it's been clear for a while that America's democracy, with its 50% turnouts, pervasive corruption, vote suppression, and government of, by, and for the rich, no longer functions properly. And what happens when that system meets the anger generated by its own depraved indifference to its own citizens could get very ugly indeed.