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THEN THE WIND BLEW September 20, 2005

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.

Hurricane Katrina may well be one of those turning points in American history.

Breaking through the levees was evidence of physical power. In doing so it also threw aside the curtain of American power and reveal who was pulling the levers. And then, if that was not enough, it showed Americans, not of the right color, and not rich enough, could not escape from the effects of the hurricane.

Janet Pelz in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via Common Dreams News Centre, wrote:

Hurricane Katrina showed us faces the Republicans never wanted us to see — the elderly, the infirm, the poor. The ones with no car to get them out of the city before the storm hit, the ones unable to pay for hotel rooms until the waters receded. The ones with no health insurance to recover from the ravages of insulin shock, kidney failure or dehydration. The ones lying face down in the cesspool or dying of heatstroke in the Superdome. These are the people the Republicans have been teaching us to disdain, if not hate, since President Reagan decried the moral laxness of the Welfare Mom. And for the past 25 years, they’ve been successful. As long as the poor remained out of sight, they could be described in whatever undeserving light the Republicans chose, and the rest of us would be unwilling to challenge them.

These people are what we are likely to call “no hopers”. I have a great affinity for “no hopers” these days been a bit of a no hoper myself. At first the clever thing was to blame the victims. Now it seems to me the “liberals” seem to have recovered their voice, as evidence of this, and other, commentary in the US media.

The poor have a two fold disenfranchisement in the current US economic model. They have, at best, marginal employment and low income, on the basis, as I understand it, that will make them work harder, be more subservient, and become more economically useless, and now I discover that they are also politically disenfranchised by the winner take all political system. The individualist ideology does not recognize social membership or larger environmental factors, argues an individual is self-sufficient and competent, or otherwise does not matter, a “no hoper”, a drag on society.

If I remember correctly, one charge against the people left behind was that they do not vote. That in the general sense would appear to be the case. According to Robert Richie, Douglas Amy, and Frederick McBride in How Proportional Representation Can Empower Minorities and the Poor

Data from the U.S. Census shows a direct correlation between voter turnout and income that is only becoming more pronounced. In the 1996 presidential race, under the current system, voter turnout was only 44% among the 17 million American citizens earning less than $15,000 a year, in stark contrast to the 76% turnout among the 23 million citizens earning more than $75,000.

Some suggest the reason for this behavior may lie in the electoral system. A good source for a range of information about proportional representation can be found here.

As I have learnt to realize stories disappear from the headlines. Yet I think it can be supposed that Katrina, like 9/11, may well change the understanding of the world for many people, and in doing so they have implications beyond the headlines. We will see.

I should mention that I stumbled across these PR sources, from being irritated by the fact that I did not have an adequate explanation for the failure of the Americans to adopt PR or even preferential voting. John Quiggin triggered this dissatisfaction by his post, A Case for Instant Runoff Voting. The Americans adopted PR before us, at the city level, most notably New York, except it with us it stuck, given our constitution and the experience of simple plurality in the Senate prior to 1949.

21/09/2005Just another article on poverty in America. This time in the LA Times.


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