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“Breakdown in reponse” gives Bush too much credit

As nearly everyone acknowledges there has been a serious “breakdown” in government response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. If you are like me, you have been reading several different blogs, listening to NPR, and gleaning all you can from various other media sources. I am angry and sickened by the total disregard the administration has shown to those who have lost everything, not just materially, but many have lost their family, their community and their hope.

I should have been prepared for such inhumanity having seen this administration handiwork in Iraq, Guantanamo, and Columbia, but I wasn’t. This morning I found an Alternet piece by George Lakoff that helped me understand this pattern of contempt for those who can’t “help themselves.” Using the word “breakdown” to describe the federal response isn’t actually accurate. There was no breakdown in government response (which explains how Bush can say “Brownie is doing a fine job”). A breakdown implies that those in power expected the response to be different than it was. The reality is, that the FEMA and DHS response fits well whith the right-wing conservative philosophy of Bush and his cronies.

From George Lakoff’s “The Post-Katrina Era”:

[The right-wing conservatives] main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It’s the difference between We’re all in this together and You’re on your own, buddy. It’s the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You’re only entitled to what you can afford. It’s the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.

A lack of empathy and responsibility accounts for Bush’s indifference and the government’s delay in response, as well as the failure to plan for the security of the most vulnerable: the poor, the infirm, the aged, the children.

Eliminating as much as possible of the role of government accounts for the demotion of FEMA from cabinet rank, for Michael Brown’s view that FEMA was a federal entitlement program to be cut, for the budget cuts in levee repair, for placing more responsibility on state and local government than they could handle, for the failure to fully employ the military, and for the lax regulation of toxic waste dumps contributing to a “toxic stew.”

This was not just incompetence (though there was plenty of it), not just a natural disaster (though nature played its part), not just Bush (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy — a deadly failure. That is the deep truth behind this human tragedy, humanly caused.

Read the rest of Lakoff’s piece, which includes his analysis of how the John Roberts nomination furthers this right-wing philosophical agenda, at Alternet.


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