The Post-Katrina Era
American History &
Right Wing Propaganda Videos ....
Live Links *....
*Teaching American History Videos
*Religious Right Videos
*Fox News: Lies, Misrepresentations & Propaganda Videos
A Matter of Values and Principles
The moral of Katrina is mostly being missed. It is not just a failure of execution (William Kristol), or that bad things just happen (Laura Bush). It was not just indifference by the President, or a lack of accountability, or a failure of federal-state communication, or corrupt appointments in FEMA, or the cutting of budgets for fixing levees, or the inexcusable absence of the National Guard off in Iraq. It was all of these and more, but they are the effects, not the cause.
The cause was political through and through -- a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America's values, and we need to go back to them. The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy).
Holding the Whole Show Together
These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.
The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative.
While Katrina didn't have any direct impact on the debate, images are more visceral than statistics. It's hard to sit in a comfortable, dry place watching the abandoned poor fight for their lives, and argue that the growing class divide in this country is a figment of the left's imagination, or that our current socio-economic arrangements are the best we can do.
Directly related to class is the idea of social cohesion. "United we stand" is a central tenet of the American narrative. Whatever your background, your status, your ideology, we pull together when the chips are down. But in New Orleans it became clear just how transparent that fiction is.
the Next American War
(the War at Home)
Our sense of community -- if the ideal ever truly existed -- has now deteriorated to such a degree that only the threat of deadly violence holds the whole show together.
(Conservatives take a hit as Hurricane Katrina proves that the disaster's biggest problem was not too much government, but too little, too late.)
The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between
Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.
In other words, the man-made disaster in New Orleans this past week has been years in the making. Noam Chomsky has observed on multiple occasions that the net effect of the last quarter century of conservative "reform" has been to destroy the civil society.
It doesn't matter if the guy in the apartment upstairs has a heart attack because it's his problem, not yours. It doesn't matter if 200,000 people got stuck in New Orleans because they couldn't afford to leave: they should have gotten themselves into a better financial position like all of us responsible people.
Modern "Republican Liberalism"
If you want big government (modern "liberalism") at home, find yourself a great crusade abroad. As James Madison put it in 1798, "Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad."
Or as John Hobson wrote in 1905: "The Liberal party's leaders, having sold their party to a confederacy of stock gamblers and jingo sentimentalists, find themselves impotent to defend Free Trade, Free Press, Free Schools, or any of the rudiments of ancient Liberalism."
What has George Dubya Bush brought us? Steel tariffs, deficit spending, new ecological boondoggles, more federal educational ventures to chloroform our children's minds, bailouts for everyone, the list goes on2 – and, of course, a "war" so vaguely but so broadly drawn as to resemble the theory of eternal frontier war (in Russia) put forward in the early 1940s by certain policy-makers in service to the Austrian fellow with the moustache.
Let us leave the "war" and the "terrorists" (including those who are not on the US payroll) to one side. No one knows how the "war" is going, what its goals are, or how to tell when it has been "won." Perfect. More than close enough for government work.
How can the enlightened Left-bureaucrats lose under these rules? They can't. George Bush II will be remembered as a great state-building liberal on the scale of Wilson, FDR, and Nixon. Ah, the Republican Party: the great friend of free enterprise and individual rights.