Monday, September 05, 2005

Does New Orleans have anything to teach us?

We need to understand what the costs are if the welfare state is dismantled

Dreams unrealized
By Billy Sothern


While it may be easy for American tourists to turn a blind eye to their own third world, a steady stream of young Australians and Europeans have been coming to Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and the rest of the deep South for years to serve the needs of the indigent people throughout these states. [Snip] it is always mildly surprising and embarrassing to me to hear these bright and passionate people explain that they are applying either to work for the poor in the criminal justice system in Texas or to help build shelters in Guatemala, and are unable to determine where the needs are greater. What seems most shocking to our volunteers is the complete disregard that the U.S. government has paid our clients throughout their lives, failing to provide housing, healthcare, education and other basic needs.

Given that our government, the richest in the world, has failed to provide the basic tools for its citizens for generations, we should not now be surprised that the poor and stranded in New Orleans have no reasonable expectation that the government will do anything to serve them and have taken things into their own hands. Perhaps if the government had made adequate investment in our citizens and our city's infrastructure in the first place, we could have avoided this mess.

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