In case you missed it, there is a great article in today’s Los Angeles Times, by Robert Scheer (the title says it all):
WHAT THE WORLD has witnessed this past week is an image of poverty and social disarray that tears away the affluent mask of the United States.
Instead of the much-celebrated American can-do machine that promises to bring freedom and prosperity to less fortunate people abroad, we have seen a callous official incompetence that puts even Third World rulers to shame.
For half a century, free-market purists have to great effect denigrated the essential role that modern government performs as some terrible liberal plot. Thus, the symbolism of New Orleans’ flooding is tragically apt: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Louisiana Gov. Huey Long’s ambitious populist reforms in the 1930s eased Louisiana out of feudalism and toward modernity; the Reagan Revolution and the callousness of both Bush administrations have sent them back toward the abyss.
It is the result of a campaign by most Republicans and too many Democrats to systematically vilify the role of government in American life. Manipulative politicians have convinced lower- and middle-class whites that their own economic pains were caused by “quasi-socialist” government policies that aid only poor brown and black people — even as corporate profits and CEO salaries soared.
For decades we have seen social services that benefit everyone — education, community policing, public health, environmental protections and infrastructure repair, emergency services — in steady, steep decline in the face of tax cuts and rising military spending. But it is a false savings.
Watching on television the stark vulnerability of a permanent underclass of African Americans living in New Orleans ghettos is terrifying. It should be remembered, however, that even when hurricanes are not threatening their lives and sanity, they live in rotting housing complexes, attend embarrassingly ill-equipped public schools and, lacking adequate police protection, are frequently terrorized by unemployed, uneducated young men.
In fact, rather than an anomaly, the public suffering of these desperate Americans [a permanent underclass of African Americans living in New Orleans ghettos] is a symbol for a nation that is becoming progressively poorer under the leadership of the party of Big Business.
For those who have trouble with statistics, here’s the shorthand: The rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting, in the ripe populist language of Louisiana’s legendary Long, the shaft.
No, these folks are supposed to be cruising on the rising tide of a booming, unregulated economy that “floats all boats.”
They were left floating all right.
Read it all. and again.