Motherlode of "toldja so's", A Rant
The suffering of the Gulf Coast has brought to the forefront the bankruptcy of
what passes as an "ideology" of the American right.
The admin said, at the nadir of the current phase of the disaster, that it didn't want people to die because of bureaucracy. The irony of this statement is not lost on the more politically aware - it was the LACK of a bureaucracy at an effective level and a SURPLUS of bureaucracy on the political level that has been responsible for the torpid relief efforts.
The federal government has grown in spurts: the Civil War created the first strong central government apparatus. The New Deal expanded it exponentially. The 1960's saw some growth - although mostly in government responsibilities. Finally, the current administration schizophrenically loaded a new layer of useless political appointees while removing competencies and budgets.
The American right is on record for wanting to eliminate, as far as possible, the federal government. This is a relatively new aspect of the right and came about as a result of the 1960's; the Goldwater cons were unhappy with the idea of the government meddling in such affairs as the enforcement of civil rights, social programs to help raise the less wealthy, education, etc. As the GOP coddled and captured the Dixiecrats, the concept of "states rights" (a pre-Civil War bagatelle) confirmed the idea of "drowning the government in a bathtub".
Billions have been spent on converting the idea of "less government" into a quasi-cultural meme. Yet the money was spent - because some desire to profit from the absence of government. It is an empty rhetorical flourish because even the most rabid government minimalist can't conceive of a society where the basic services provided by the government were to disappear.
Some have argued that government services should be privatized. Others say that the states should be responsible. Almost all point out that the government is inefficient compared to private enterprise and the competitive marketplace. All three are dead wrong - as the recent disaster shows.
The LA disaster plan that turned out to be a disaster itself was... outsourced. LA does not have the emergency infrastructure and it certainly doesn't have the cash to face such a disaster. The "social darwinists" and assorted cons might say "tough tittie" - but unfortunately a disaster like this one affects the whole nation if not the entire world.
Private enterprise may be initially more efficient but adds a profit margin to expenses as well as corruption - while government inefficiency is due to POLITICAL incompetence. And the unending trend towards corporate consolidation shows that the competitive marketplace for "necessities" eventually ends up with monopolies, friendly duopolies or worse.
If there are any meaningful questions to be asked after this disaster, they shouldn't be about the identities of incompetent political appointees or "tweakings of the system." The real question that needs to be asked is "what should the role of the central government be?".
The "minimalist", "states' rights", "privatized" approach was tested and found to be wanting. Iraq showed the first palpable symptoms of this: poor oversight, corruption, incompetence. This disaster showed that the cons have created a major vacuum in a key area - the power to evaluate, coordinate and effectuate necessary actions in a critical moment.
Another open wound discovered (or re-discovered) is the extreme disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Vietnam starved the "Great Society" of funds and political weight and the cons have since removed itself from any responsibility for improving the lot of the citizens it represents. A disaster, a videotaped beating, a basketball victory - all are capable of igniting riots amongst the nation's poor. If there is any barometer measuring the government's competence, this is it.
The politically aware know the conservative rhetoric all too well. Yet what the conservatives ignore is that their rhetoric is 150 years old and when actually applied, has invariably resulted in absolute failure and incredible suffering.
"Self-help", "charity" (the predecessor of the "faith based" initiatives of today)... were Victorian mantras that utterly failed to improve the squalor of the Industrial Revolution. They were also the basis of the Coolidges, Hardings and Hoovers - which resulted in the Depression. It would be fitting if the likely refugee camps to be built for the survivors of the Gulf disaster were to be called "Dubyavilles" - in allusion to the Depression-era "Hooverville" hovels that dotted the American countryside.
Civilization requires governance and the lack of government is, by definition, anarchy. Spreading government to the local level can be effective in the day-to-day administration but is utterly incapable of dealing with emergencies or of progressing society. And borrowing an argument from the cons themselves, the multiplicity of bureaucracies through decentralization cannot be "efficient".
Since the cleptocratic/corporatist establishment will undoubtedly spend wildly in order to maintain their investment in pulling the wool over their constituents' eyes, I hope that they have to spend a shitload of cash.
With a bit of luck they'll bankrupt themselves in the process.