Sunday, September 04, 2005

Figuring Out What Went Wrong in New Orleans

I suspect that talk about how the richest and most developed country in the world could be so unprepared for this crisis and handle it so badly is going to be around for quite some time. But I thought this was a pretty good article on it.


Steve Marshall said...

Perhaps the US can learn something from Cuba about hurricane-preparedness - Preparedness saves lives as hurricane hits Cuba. No loss of human life, and even the animals and glasshouses were saved -- Although the cucumbers were left to fend for themselves.

The US is materially rich, but it does seem that it's poor in social capital, based the numbers left behind when the folks in the path of Hurricane Katrina evacuated.

Karen said...

Hi Steve

One disadvantage of the American system is that, when something like this happens, you have to coordinate three levels of government -- local, state, federal. The feds can't do anything unless and until its approved at the lower levels, and from what I've been hearing (although bear in mind the full story about what went wrong hasn't been told yet), it looks like the state of Louisiana dropped the ball. I'm not hearing of such ridiculous delays in getting help in Mississippi and Alabama -- although the media focus has been on New Orleans and it's possible I'm wrong about that. Anyway, that was part of the Mayor's frustration -- things weren't getting done, because the proper approval hadn't yet occurred.
I think it's easier in Cuba to simply order things done from the top.

As far as being "poor in social capital" -- Americans are very resistant to social spending. They tend to want the infrastructure without approving the taxes. I've known folks who will stubbornly vote against necessary bond measures because they want "waste" (which is very much in the minds of the beholder) trimmed first. Cut welfare to build the bridges. Cut environmental programs to fix the highways. Anything but raise taxes.

As far as people being left behind -- there is a tremendous disconnect between those who have the income to have the necessities of a middle class life, and those who don't. Apparently school buses were supposed to pick those people up, but somehow word didn't get to them.

I suspect that whoever put that bus program together didn't realize that not everyone has access to mass media, and not everyone understood the danger, and not everyone would understand the instructions. For poor folks, you've got to go knocking door-to-door.

And there are stubborn people who will just refuse to leave. There are people refusing to leave their homes even now, sticking it out on the second floors with whatever supplies they put by beforehand.