Compassionate Conservatism's Big Easy
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away....
Randy Newman, 1974
The state of Louisiana has always posed somewhat of a sticky problem for the Republican Party. Like most southern states, it has no shortage of unenlightened, racist yahoos who have been perfectly content to swallow the scare tactics and race baiting of "the party of Lincoln" since they signed off on the Nixon Gang's "Southern Strategy" almost forty years ago during the campaign of 1968. Unfortunately for the purposes of the Grand Old Party, however, Louisiana has something which other states in dear ol' Dixie seriously lack: New Orleans.
You see, just because the Big Easy is located south of the Mason Dixon line, it didn't necessarily mean that most of its residents (like most southern voters - let's face some facts here) would be dumb enough to vote against their own best interests and elect a party which only serves at the beck and call of corporate America. Why? Because New Orleans has a lot of black people living there - lots and lots of them. For reasons I've never been able to quite figure out, African Americans (while lacking the same educational opportunities available to most white Americans) are a whole hell of a lot smarter than their white brothers and sisters when it comes to casting their ballot. They know what's in their best interests and, more importantly, what's not. For that very reason, the state of Louisiana - while definitely not a blue state, is decidedly in the purple camp.
Hurricane Katrina offered the Republicans in general and our half-witted president in particular a once in a lifetime chance. Instead of having the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) come in and repair 4,500 units of Public Housing which were damaged in that catastrophe (which is their job; hence the word "Development" in their title), they plan on going in there and destroying them. Again, I must emphasize, the "D" in HUD" does not stand for "Destruction". Just a little point I thought you might want to think about. One more thing I would beg for your consideration: "HUD" spelled backwards is "DUH"! Again, just thought you'd like to know.
HUD wants to demolish the buildings in order for developers to take advantage of tax credits and build new "mixed income" neighborhoods. What they are trying to do here is cover a cake of battery acid with some yummy, sweet tasting vanilla frosting. Critics of this "purge" (can you think of a better word?) say it will force thousands of poor blacks out of the city and (the Bush Mob's secret dream) out of the state - and will severely lower the amount of public housing available. According to plans already on the table, these new neighborhoods will have only 800 units of affordable, public housing - an eighty-two percent reduction in size. And here's the kicker: These people, being homeless and with addresses that will no longer even exist, will be unable to vote - a fact that will make Louisiana a reliable red state. What did they call their policies again? Ah, yes! Now I remember! "Compassionate Conservatism"! Please.
In a piece that was reported on December 21, Kali Akuno, an organizer for a group called, Coalition To Stop The Demolition, told the Associated Press, "It's beyond callous, and can only be seen as an unabashed attempt to eliminate the black population of New Orleans." WELL, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT, KALI! If all of you silly dark-skinned people down there would only start towin' the line for dear ol' Massah, you wouldn't be having this problem! Sheeeesh!
Here's some more "Compassionate Conservatism" for you: In a letter co-authored with three Republican congressmen, Louisiana Senator David Vitter wrote as follows:
"Public housing in New Orleans has for many decades served almost no other purpose than to warehouse [Yes, so help me, he actually used the word, "warehouse"] the city's poor and disenfranchised. That generations of our fellow citizens were allowed to live in government operated and sanctioned slums is offensive and intolerable."
How touching. That it is "offensive and intolerable" there can be little doubt. Do you want to know what is even more "offensive and intolerable? The very idea that an agency of our government could roll right in and destroy the homes of the most vulnerable people among us, leaving them without a place to live. That is not merely "offensive and intolerable"; that is unconscionable. To no one's surprise, the mind-numbing stupidity of Vitter's statement went right over his head. (Shh! Just between you and me, he's not the brightest bulb on the porch. It'll be our little secret!)
This, dear reader, is the real face of the right wing revolution that has held this country's national political dialogue hostage for over a quarter of a century. If you can't see it by now you're either blind or so ideologically retarded, you might qualify for an assisted living program. At a time when American corporate CEO's are giving themselves Christmas bonuses that amount to roughly the total income of the bottom ten percent of wage earners in this once-great nation, people are literally starting to go hungry.
I live in Orange County - sixty miles north of merrie old Manhattan. It is generally regarded as being one of the most affluent regions in the country. Our local paper is the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, NY. It is the same newspaper where the legendary "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson launched his career way back in the late 1950s. Here is the front page headline of this morning's edition:
The "new hungry" strain local food pantries
The piece, which appeared of pages four and five (beautifully written by Record reporter, Ashley Kelly) told of how Orange and Ulster Counties saw an increase of people in 2006 who fell below the poverty level:
"Food assistance providers are seeing the working poor as well as middle-class families reaching out for help. But as the people continue to pour in, resources are stretched thin....Although the working poor - described as people who have jobs, but struggle with paying the bills - regularly fill their cupboards from local food pantries, an increasing number of middle-class families battling mortgage rate hikes and high fuel prices have joined them, say those who anecdotally see such a trend emerging."
They told us from the very beginning that the prosperity would "trickle down" to the rest of us. It has only trickled up. The war on the middle class, fought subtly and quietly by America's plutocracy for twenty years or so is now in what can only be described as surge mode. The harm that corporate America and their hand maidens in the House and Senate have done to the working people of the United States of America will take - at the very least - a generation to undo. As it now stands from the vantage point of December 2007, there is little reason to be optimistic. The candidates for the GOP presidential nomination are all members of the same incompetent and exclusive club - and the Democrats seem hell-bent on handing over the nomination to their only candidate who is destined to lose next year. The problem with the American people is that while they are finally starting to express the long overdue anger they should have been feeling two decades ago, they are foolishly looking toward their incumbent representatives to fix the mess for them. Like the man said, "That ain't never gonna happen, baby!" They should be looking for new political representation all across the board. It's as complicated and yet as simple as that.
What is now happening in New Orleans is just a blue print of what they have in store for the rest of the country. What has not been given much notice in the main stream (read: Corporate) news media is that the neo-cons are now in the process of privatizing the public school system down there. And why shouldn't they? After all, privatization worked so well in Baghdad, didn't it?
Good Old Boys
by Randy Newman
Reprise Records 1974
It is only one of the greatest records ever made.