Part of the Guest Blogger Series
I write from New Orleans to explain how important this election is. We have learned the hard way why we need a government that works.
Three years ago, our federally built levees failed and 1600 of my neighbors died, some of them while waiting on their roofs for days for rescuers that did not come in time.
Most of my city remains in ruins, in part because a quarter of homeowners have yet to receive their promised rebuilding money. Imagine paying a mortgage on a house you can’t live in. For three years. We have 65,000 blighted houses, with fading spray paint marking the number of bodies found inside. The City has received less than half of the money FEMA promised it for infrastructure repairs, so police and firemen still work out of trailers.
These are apocryphal times we live in. We veer between terrorist attacks, financial crises, and massive hurricanes spawned by warmer oceans. We need to know that our leaders respect government enough to make it function. We need a FEMA run by professionals, not “heckofajob” Brownie. We need a Corp of Engineers whose funding decisions are not determined by porkbarrel politics. Millions of Americans drive across rickety bridges and live in the shadow of outdated flood protections. Millions of Americans live near coasts threatened by rising sea levels.
Republican cynicism about government has resulted in massively expensive problems. Limiting the scope of government in order to save money has cost us far more money. Limiting the scope of government intrusion into our lives has resulted in a far bigger government.
Failing to properly invest in levees and coastal erosion cost us $180 billion in Katrina expenses. Failing to properly regulate the banking industry and the market has cost us more than $700 billion thus far in government bailouts. Failing to properly plan for the war has contributed to its current bill of $600 billion. Republican belief in smaller government has caused problems that have created unprecedented expansion in the size and expense of government.
In New Orleans, we learned the hard way what it means when government doesn’t invest in prevention like levees. We lost our homes, our community, and many of us, our lives. We learned that the Bush administration had gutted core government functions like emergency preparedness as we waited for five days for the troops to arrive with drinking water and food.
But here we have also learned what tragedy can accomplish to bind together a community. We have become extraordinarily engaged. We read the paper every day, we pack into neighborhood meetings, and we expect far more from our government. We have become the national epicenter of public school reform. We have rebuilt some of our communities with green housing. We have created new visions for urban life while preserving the history and culture that makes us who we are.
This is the time to elect a president who believes in the power of government to protect us, to invest in infrastructure, to come up with creative solutions and to inspire us to come together.
In New Orleans, we dearly hope that no other Americans will ever have to experience what we have gone through.