The controversy surrounding the government’s relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina is more complicated than meets the eye. I feel that we must take into account many different perspectives before assessing the situation. Obviously, the immediate response to Katrina’s destruction was a failure; thousands were stranded, injured, or dying and much of the city was immersed under water. The city simply wasn’t prepared for such an extreme disaster, and even with the warning of the hurricane, local, state, and national government did little to prevent much of the destruction.
Many have blamed President George Bush for this failure. For example, ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee said that "Katrina showed [Bush] is incompetent.” However, it’s important to look at this issue not from party lines, but from a broader perspective. I’m not saying that Bush didn’t fail in his response to the disaster, but I am saying that this issue is deeper than Democrats versus Republicans. A democratic president wouldn’t have necessarily done a better job.
The bigger issue here is the role of government in solving national crises. According to White House officials, “the poor Katrina response must be shared by the federal, state, and local governments, especially in dealing with the hurricane-related problems in New Orleans.” As we read in class, the flood control and levee system was doomed to fail, and yet no one did anything about it. The inept infrastructure makes this issue especially interesting because it is difficult to put blame on a certain person or branch of government. Just as Obama inherited the economic crises, Bush inherited Katrina. It would have been impossible to predict that such a hurricane would occur, and it’s just a guess of mine if someone in Congress or the president himself had proposed spending federal funds to fix the levee system pre-Katrina, there would have been much backlash. Thus, much of the blame must also be put on the local New Orleans government for not putting pressure on the State of Louisiana to invest in fixing the system. Not every issue can be solved on a national level - that’s why the USA operates in a federal system where states and the national government share power.
Blaming differing groups in power, however, isn’t going to solve anything. Instead we should learn from Katrina and focus on how we can pressure our local, state, and national government to work towards preventing disasters like this in the future.
- Abby Michaelsen