Bill Quigley reports
(See also Justice for New Orleans
The statistics tell some of the story. The City of New Orleans says it is half its pre-Katrina size - around 225,000 people. But the US Post Office estimates that only about 170,000 people have returned to the city and 400,000 people have not returned to the metropolitan area. The local electricity company reports only about 80,000 of its previous 190,000 customers have returned.
Texas also tells part of the story. It is difficult to understand the impact of Katrina without understanding the role of Texas - home to many of our displaced. Houston officials say their city is still home to about 150,000 storm evacuees - 90,000 in FEMA assisted housing. Texas recently surveyed the displaced and reported that over 250,000 displaced people live in the state and 41 percent of these households report income of less than $500 per month.
Only half the homes in New Orleans have electricity. Power outages are common, as hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs have not been made because Entergy New Orleans is in bankruptcy. Entergy is asking for a 25 percent increase in rates to help it become solvent. Yet Entergy New Orleans' parent company, Entergy Corporation, reported earnings of $282 million last year on revenue of $2.6 billion.
Doctors and health care workers have gone, and there is surging demand from the uninsured, who before Katrina went through now non-existent public health care. There is a shortage of nurses. Blue Cross Blue Shield officials reported, "About three-quarters of the physicians who had been practicing in New Orleans are no longer submitting claims."
There is no hospital at all in the city for psychiatric patients.
Criminal Court District Judge Arthur Hunter has declared the current criminal justice system shameful and unconstitutional, and promises to start releasing inmates awaiting trial on recognizance bonds on the one-year anniversary of Katrina. The system is nearly paralyzed by a backlog of over 6,000 cases.
Asian tsunami relief workers who visited New Orleans over the summer were shocked at the lack of recovery.
This is not merely a failure of the state, federal, and local civil authority.
It is a failure of leadership by business, which has gorged at the federal trough and stinted on charitable giving.
It is a failure of leadership by private charity, which only deals with crisis as long as the TV cameras are there. The American Red Cross is particularly culpable.
It is a failure of leadership by journalism which, despite some good reporting, allowed the Bush Administration to escape full responsibility by blaming the victims and blurring the issues.
It is a failure of compassion on the part of the American middle class. Suppose there are 75 million families who could put $10 a week toward New Orleans. Over the course of a year, they could have contributed almost $40 BILLION dollars-- enough to build a brand new house for every displaced family.
Our failure to do this is an indictment of this nation.
Charities to consider:
I can recommend Common Ground and ACORN.
Thanks to AllSpinZone, where Richard Cranium has blogged
on Spike Lee's film "When the Levees Broke."