Friday, September 02, 2005
Thu Sep 1st, 2005 at 23:10:11 PDT
Katrina may be destroying more than countless lives and communities.
Amid all the agony of the hurricane's aftermath, we may well be witnessing the moment of this country's decisive pivot away from the course of conservative folly it has been pursuing since at least 1980.
For like the shattered foundations of houses, the foundational premises that have dominated our public life for a quarter of a century have been uprooted by a mighty and terrible wind.
Among the lies now hideously exposed: . . .
"Cutting taxes and shrinking government budgets is an absolute and inarguable desideratum." (Wrong: first fund what needs to be funded, such as coastal wetlands restoration and levee repair.)
"The only legitimate priority for government spending is national/homeland security."
(Wrong: terrorists don't cause hurricanes.)
"The poor don't need a baseline government-funded resource infrastructure of support and assistance--just vague lip service to economic opportunity."
(Wrong: people who live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford cars can't evacuate a doomed city on their own.)
"The National Guard is just another branch of the military, to be used legitimately for overseas invasions of choice."
(Wrong: we need every one of them at home, where they will be ready to respond to a disaster.)
"Big government is the problem."
(Wrong: big government is the solution when only a massive and efficient government effort stands between masses of desperate humanity and imminent death.)
"Environmental protection is the fraudulent shibboleth of a bunch of selfish leftist elitists opposed to property rights."
(Wrong: environmental protection is what keeps coastlines, barrier islands, and coastal wetlands able to withstand hurricanes and buffer inland settlements by absorbing storm surges and subsequent floods.)
"Environmental regulation of private enterprise by government is morally, economically, and politically illegitimate."
(Wrong: environmental regulation with real teeth in it is the only thing that will keep your piggish chemical and petroleum companies from storing their toxins so carelessly that they permeate the waters in a matter of hours when a city floods, depositing contaminants that will linger in the region's soil and water for decades.)
"Global warming is an evil leftwing lie designed to destroy America's economic strength."
(Wrong: global warming is real and may already be contributing to the strengthening of hurricanes through rising temperatures in tropical waters.)
"The private sphere alone has true moral legitimacy, and must be increased and expanded at the expense of any public sphere or commons."
(Wrong: the private sphere cannot mobilize effectively in real disaster, and the failure to nurture a broad and deep sense of community, commons, and commonweal bred by such an attitude is what leaves thousands of poor black people trapped in a drowned city that the wealthy and the middle class have fled.)
"George W. Bush is a great leader."
(Wrong. George W. Bush failed to respond with either efficiency or compassion as an unspeakable calamity unfolded amidst his people, and by the time he showed up for business from his luxuriously indolent and self-indulgent vacation, a great city and God knows how many of its people had been destroyed.)
And last but not least, this:
"The untrammeled individual is society's greatest good."
(Wrong: when the floodwaters rise, we have only one another.)