In all the months of the hottest campaigning, the words ‘Katrina’ and ‘New Orleans’ were hardly heard. In spite of New Orleans having more reason to vote for Obama than most. There may have been election night coverage from Louisiana on one of the networks, but I didn’t happen to catch it, or any features in the print media in the run up to November 4th, or since.
The hope given by Obama – ‘this is the place where the renewal began’ on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, should not only be honoured, but should take priority. If the new administration means business about sustainable change towards a people’s future, the system of community schemes it sponsors to renew New Orleans will show how to manage a large technological society without greed. By doing this, New Orleans would become a testing ground for a global model. So that Palestinians watching might believe that a black man with a muslim middle name might be a man to trust, and not just as much of an insult as if America had elected Salman Rushdie, and given him control of the world’s most powerful military machine.
Government reports confirm that half of the working poor, elderly and disabled who lived in New Orleans before Katrina have not returned. Because of critical shortages in low cost housing, few now expect tens of thousands of poor and working people to ever be able to return home. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) reports Medicaid, medical assistance for aged, blind, disabled and low-wage working families, is down 46% from pre-Katrina levels. DHH reports before Katrina there were 134,249 people in New Orleans on Medicaid. February 2008 reports show participation down to 72,211 (a loss of 62,038 since Katrina). Medicaid is down dramatically in every category: by 50% for the aged, 53% for blind, 48% for the disabled and 52% for children. The Social Security Administration documents that fewer than half the elderly are back. New Orleans was home to 37,805 retired workers who received Social Security before Katrina, now there are 18,940–a 50% reduction. Before Katrina, there were 12,870 disabled workers receiving Social Security Disability in New Orleans, now there are 5350–59% less. Before there were 9425 widowers in New Orleans receiving Social Security survivor’s benefits, now there are less than half, 4140. Children of working class families have not returned. Public school enrollment in New Orleans was 66,372 before Katrina. Latest figures are 32,149–a 52% reduction.Bill Quigley. CounterPunch