History has made it clear: the capitalist elite seems most happy while the masses suffer. Things that are detrimental to the lives of the working majority go to the financial benefit of the ruling few. Things such as war, pollution, price gouging, unemployment and natural disasters are beneficial to them; while slowly killing working people and the environment. The war in Iraq has made unbelievable profits for the oil and construction industries. Every dioxin molecule and greenhouse gas in the depleting atmosphere is a penny saved for the industrial capitalists. It is no surprise then, that the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina have become a beacon for capitalist greed and exploitation. Billions in no-bid contracts have been handed out to corporate giants like Halliburton and Bechtel for reconstruction, with massive profits built into the projected costs.
The worst of it wasn’t even on the television. It is impossible to capture the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who have just lost their family members, homes, jobs, friends and pets in a twenty minute spot on the evening news. The media is much more concerned with showing heroic news reporters being blown around in the wind and wading in the toxic flood water. It is something that can hardly be comprehended without it actually happening to you. Would it be too difficult to believe that Katrina didn’t actually occur in America, but somewhere in South Asia? Why did this look like a “third world” response in a “first world” country? The answer to this question is a major indictment of the capitalist system.
We have to first realize that our government was completely unprepared for this situation. The millionaires in Washington are too busy passing meaningless legislation, being indicted for corruption, or simply taking it easy for a few weeks at the ranch. Whatever the case, it should be proof enough to anybody who could imagine what the Katrina evacuees went through, that the bourgeois government is in no way able to relate to this plight of the working class. An example of this administrative “failure to act” was a $14 billion plan that would rehabilitate the wetlands surrounding New Orleans, thereby severely lessening the damage from hurricanes. Bills along these lines were put up long before the hurricane hit, but never voted on. Instead, the government decided to sit around while two hundred billion dollars worth of damage was done due to their inaction. To put things into perspective, over $300 billion has already been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There have been numerous plans both before and after Katrina to effectively rebuild New Orleans. None of them are being seriously considered by the government at the moment. Keeping this in mind, it is not surprising that the government is not rebuilding New Orleans in an effective or humane manner.
Money controls government; from your local public school to the executive branch of the Federal Government. Therefore, the government will act on the behalf of those who possess the wealth, not those who produce it. On September 8th, President Bush suspended application of the Davis Bacon Act, a federal law which guarantees a minimum wage to those working on government contracts. In short, one of the ruling class’ first reactions to the disaster was to make it easier for workers to be exploited.
Such clear disregard for workers’ rights is completely unacceptable. The reconstruction in New Orleans is not much different than the reconstruction going on in Iraq. The only real difference is not what is going on in the post-destruction areas, but how they were destroyed. Iraq was deliberately destroyed with bombs, while New Orleans was allowed to be destroyed a natural disaster and gross negligence. The companies seem to be acting on the old axiom “out with the old, in with the new,” but taken to a diabolical level. A level that puts profits before human life, a level that disregards the safety of a major American city, a level that refuses help from foreign nations because of political disagreements, a level that justifies the overthrow of the capitalist system.