GCN Special Report
Our Summer of Discontent
As the President's Polls Plummet. Democrats Smell Blood. Conservatives Fear Revolt and Katrina Survivors Worry About the Future
By Perry Hicks and Keith Burton Filed 5/22/06
The concern most of us feel these days is quite difficult to get our arms around; this sense that our nation is heading down the wrong road; that we, as a nation, are in jeopardy. There is simply so much that has gone awry in so many sectors for so long a time that finding the right words to describe, much less make sense of it, is very, very difficult. Those of us who live in the Katrina Disaster Zone feel the sharp edge of the nation's problems perhaps more than elsewhere. We see what has gone wrong at the ground level and our vision is perhaps clearer. In an area with so much loss, words like "strong economy" and "increased business profits" do not inspire confidence.
We can readily see the problems though, manifest in a war whose Vietnam-like prosecution will insure fighting extends far out into the distant future.
We can see it not just in our national government’s refusal to secure our borders, but how illegal aliens can take to our streets demanding- and probably getting- special favors from Washington.
We feel the pain of it at the gas pumps and in our heating bills- even as others protest the creation of energy terminals because of a supposed threat to zooplankton.
And those of us who live on the Coast, ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, we wonder if the nation can remain focused in the aftermath of true catastrophe when facing a future that is so uncertain.
It is all too evident in how the Supreme Court has upheld the use of Eminent Domain so that government may take one citizen’s private property, not for public use, but to give it to anyone else they choose and for any reason. This is no small concern for those that survived the hurricane in the few remaining beachfront neighborhoods along the Coast. As the New York Times recently said, Biloxi was one of the last working class beachfront communities.
At the same time, there is this unfathomable Federal indifference toward even the most fundamental relief- not just toward individual citizens who have lost everything- but even the municipalities utterly destroyed by Katrina.
And, it is apparent in the high divorce rates suffered in this country that is brought about as much by Federal avarice as it is by some individual’s devotion to matrimony.
Summing it all together; it is what more and more Americans are coming to believe- is that we as people no longer matter; that the situation is growing hopeless. Our wants, needs, and even lives must be subordinated to that of the state, the corporation, and foreign powers if they so demand it.
And this is what some in the Republican Party are coming to fear: the middle class coming to perceive that they are losing their freedom and are increasingly under the government’s foot. It is a recipe for social upheaval.
No Common Cause
Hoover Institute fellow Shelby Steele has recently explained his view why America has been reluctant to win any war since 1945.
Look at the record here: Because there has been no official treaty ending it, the “police action” on the Korean peninsula is technically still on-going. Vietnam was lost not by the failure of combat arms, but the undermining of national support by a virulent ant-war movement. Iranian mullahs were allowed to seize our Tehran embassy. Thus, their brothers were emboldened not just to attack our embassies, fighting ships, and armed forces overseas- which they did for two decades- but even mount an attack on American soil itself.
Shelby, a specialist in civil rights and related topics, connects America’s temerity to a legacy of racism; America chooses to lose because it somehow sees winning as damaging to our moral authority.
It is the same mechanism by which securing our borders from unlawful entry is branded racist. It doesn’t matter if Mexico truly abuses its illegals making the crossing from Central America to the United States. Guilt is the legacy of white supremacy.
The man does make a point.
However, Steele’s model places the effect just a couple of decades ahead of the cause. What emerged from Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not an unintended consequence of the civil rights movement. It was the rise of multinational corporations.
Contrary to what you have been told, warfare is not good for business- at least not unlimited war. Thus, what had been called the Department of War had to change its name to the Department of Defense. Consequently, the mission changed, too.
The same for illegal immigration: Cheap labor is needed for business here to compete with communist China. Thus, if illegals can no longer be allowed to flood over our borders, Washington will just double, triple, or even quadruple legal entry with the Republican Hagel-Martinez immigration bill.
In order to make the government look tough, Bush will send thousands of National Guardsmen to the Mexican border.
Resisting this nexus of government and global business could put button-down conservatives at the same barricades with the anarchist left- an unholy alliance that Republican politicians fear and Democrats anticipate with glee; a wedge that could finally split Lincoln’s log into smaller and so more easily managed pieces.
However, if a Republican president does not a conservative make, expect nothing less from a Democrat. That party has become the exclusive domain of liberals.
Reality Check Waiting
It is said that time is a healer of all wounds, and certainly that is true for the Mississippi Coast. But it would be better said that time well spent is a healer of all wounds if the Coast is to move affectively toward its new future. There seems to be a lack of real leadership in that those that are so called now, all have clearly evident self interests. If leadership is defined by vision and inclusiveness; those are qualities still absent in our post-Katrina days.
On the local front, a good many people may be fooled by the apparent good news rolling out over the next few months. Waveland has just won a grant from the Clinton-Bush Katrina Fund money machine so Mayor Tommy Longo will have enough funding to cover the 10% FEMA match. And Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will raise perhaps 4 million more badly needed dollars to help small charity efforts with Katrina relief.
Yet, the billions in Federal aid and private insurance said to be raining down on Mississippi has actually very few dollars reaching the ground for those most affected, and what does is wholly inadequate. Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis didn't receive a grant like Waveland just did, and those cities need it just as badly. Then there are those residents struggling to rebuild their homes. Few of them will have the combined insurance and Federal grants pay enough for their coastal homes to be rebuilt to the new FEMA standard.
None the less, as autumn approaches, politicians will stand alongside newspaper publishers (who should otherwise be independently reporting on the former) and jointly announce how wonderful the Coast’s future will be.
Insurance spokesman Bill Bailey suggested some foreknowledge of this future when he told GCN that the rich would be coming and that this would be a good thing for Mississippi.
Could he mean flattened middle class subdivisions will be turned over to condominium developers or collected to form large new estates for the mega-wealthy?
What won’t be said is that this brilliant “coming back” will be at the cost of thousands of foreclosures, if not forced sales; how tens of thousands of native Mississippians will have had to take up new lives in far away states- not by freedom of choice- but because when all was said and done, there was nothing for them to return to.
The loss of homes and businesses on the Coast has still yet to be measured. Taxes on homes and businesses have yet to reflect the loss. The counties have not even begun reassessing property values and taxes, but it is certain that people will balk on paying property taxes on slabs at the same rate as last year. This unknown loss of tax income frightens public officials and it should. What is certain is that it will take several years to sort out. Then watch as property becomes valued at the new, much higher, post-Katrina rate, which could force those that survived the hurricane to move.
Certainly there is new development on the way. Numerous condominiums are in the works for certain areas of the Coast, mostly in Biloxi. But until these new condominiums, private estates and new condos and casinos can be realized, there will simply not be enough tax revenue to keep some governments running - unless they raise taxes, surely a redevelopment hurdle no one wants to cross. Even then, who will pay higher taxes on empty lots? Then the really bad news will hit: So many businesses will not have not returned, so many homes will not have been rebuilt, that some city and county coffers will start going empty.
And if Katrina is but one natural disaster away from being a memory, what do you think will happen if say, a major storm slams into the Carolinas, or New England? Or, God forbid makes landfall again on the Coast? Where will the money come from to rebuild what has yet to be rebuilt?
Be forewarned. This is going to be one long, hot summer.