Hurricane Katrina’s winners and losers
Hurricane Katrina is just the most recent example of how huge hurricanes destroy some people and benefit others. A few years after Hurricane Andrew, Wonder Wife and yours truly were in Ft. Lauderdale where we saw new mega-yachts and new mega-homes worth millions. When asked, our host said some of the new money came from the drug trade, the old money came from inheritance from old eastern Establishment families; however, a lot of the new money had been earned by roofers, electricians, plumbers, dry-wallers, general contractors and developers who had helped rebuild the southern end of Florida after Hurricane Andrew.
We have asked friends who have repeatedly lost their Florida homes: Why keep going back? They tell us a combination of insurance pay-outs and tax-payer aid allows them to rebuild bigger and better each time. The losers, of course, are those who lost their lives or, if they survive, don’t have the moxie to work the systems to rebuild better and better. So, hurricanes can be a form of unplanned urban renewal. Or, in the case of Katrina, mostly unplanned rural renewal across the so-called Red Neck Riviera.
So now, the stage is set for the politically correct crowd to condemn the dollars spent to improve the mostly White, coastal beach areas while applauding every dollar spent to reconstruct the mostly Black and welfare-dependent downtown New Orleans and the cash-cow French Quarter.
But if they never rebuild that armpit of America, it will be too soon for this observer. One Saturday night, Wonder Wife and I looked down on Bourbon Street from the balcony of a famous watering hole to observe a virtual sea of knee-walking, vomiting drunks. And that wasn’t even during Mardi Gras.
Downtown New Orleans is essentially a criminal enterprise based on drugs, prostitution and alcohol consumption. No wonder its mayor resisted the pleas of President Bush to evacuate and then allow the insertion of federal forces and agencies. The last thing the French Quarter wanted was Elliot Ness in the form of the DEA and the FBI poking around Bourbon Street.
The decent folks of downtown New Orleans managed (with no help from their mayor who left almost 700 mass transit buses rendered useless in a literal motor pool), to evacuate themselves to higher ground. But the drug dealers (some of whom are addicts themselves) not only resisted evacuation, they did not want federal agents descending upon them and their drug stashes. That accounts for some of the gunfire directed at rescue helicopters.
So, who wins and who loses in the wake of our nation’s worst natural disaster? Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin and Democrat Governor Kathleen Blanco are political toast. But now seeking federal aid, Governor Blanco says: “President Bush is the best friend Louisiana ever had.”
The biggest loser is the American Left. The human debris that flooded out of downtown New Orleans was Exhibit A of the failure of their precious Welfare State, and someone had to be blamed for that exposure. The Left couldn’t very well blame the Democrat mayor or the Democrat governor. That left President Bush, the person they hate the most anyway.
Unfortunately for the Left, the records of the time lines of who offered what aid to whom and when are beyond question. So, in the end, President Bush comes out on top. For the next three years, we will watch President Bush cut one ribbon after another at the re-opening or opening of nicer and better facilities across the ravaged Gulf Coast and, unfortunately, inside the decadent French Quarter as well.
But the biggest Katrina winners will be the men and women who labor in the building trades, the suppliers of building materials and the general contractors and developers. If what happens along the Gulf Coast mirrors the building booms that followed Hurricane Andrew and other hurricanes that hit Florida, we will witness one more demonstration of how hurricanes continue to be deadly, but big, business.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2005. William Hamilton.