The governments strange paralysis, as Newsweek put it, is, in fact the Grover Norquist-Karl Rove plan at work: weaken and indeed dismantle what they see as the FDR legacy. The federal governments continued refusal to accept responsibility, the emphasis on refusing federal help for state and local problems are just part of the overall strategy.
Plenty of bloggers, editorial pages, television anchor people and even legislators are saying that the federal agencies and administrators--from Michael Brown at FEMA to George Bush--are inexcusably and inexplicably unable to do anything right. These people are NOT stupid, they are NOT inept; they simply have priorities.
I don't know if you noticed, but certain assets of the Gulf Coast were IMMEDIATELY swept down upon and rescued and secured by Homeland Security and the FBI. The feds excel at acting quickly and decisively when it concerns things of importance to the administration. Also, I do hope you noticed that the day after the hurricane, shares in Halliburton reached eight-year record highs. The stock market is on the upswing. The oil companies are doing very well.
But the sheer magnitude of this disaster required a swift and effective response from federal resources. The state and local authorities called upon the feds for help. We know that it is the responsibility of FEMA to respond rapidly to national disasters. It is the responsibility of the President of the United States to provide leadership and direct active duty troops to areas requiring the kind of support this area needed. The first 72 hours of a natural disaster like this are crucial for saving lives.
As Paul Krugman stated in his 5 September column, But the federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good.
That's precisely the mindset Rove, Norquist and their minions and adherents promote. Our government agencies are now full of managers and middle managers appointed by the Bush administration who believe that if you can't pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, that's your problem (tough luck if you don't have any bootstraps to pull up). Let the churches and private sector rescue the elderly, poor, and disabled, and if they can't, well, that's just too bad.
The Bush administration, Rove, and Norquist have nothing but contempt for fellow human beings who believe that government should be a force for doing good. Government is a force for promoting the interests of U.S. business, according to them. Teddy Roosevelt once warned that when the government becomes entwined with business interests, democracy is threatened. Even during Roosevelts tenure, government was all too active in shoring up U.S. business interests. Today it approaches Mussolinis own definition of fascism: another term for corporatism.
I say that a nation can be judged on the way it treats its most helpless people, and the current United States government has made it manifest to the entire world that it really doesn't give a rap about the poor, the disenfranchised, the elderly, and the disabled. On the contrary, its about survival of the fittest (i.e., richest), a kind of Rove-ite take on Hitler's Übermensch. It makes me deeply ashamed of our federal government.
But this government, after all, is exactly what Norquist and Rove have been trying to build, and, as Norquist told Bill Moyers after last years elections, you'd just better get used to it because they're in control for at least the next 30 years.
We need a transformation of consciousness in this country. Hand-wringing and finger-pointing and self-serving politics are not going to effect that change. We need a smart and responsible media, we need leaders who engage in dialogue and have some thought for the long term instead of their next campaign and partisanship, we need a public that pays attention, and in order to have all of these things, we need education and citizen activism.