Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) flies from Chicago to San Juan this morning to survey the damage and hurricane relief efforts.
"I won’t sit back and watch TV as another crisis like Katrina in New Orleans unfolds," he said in a press release. "These are our people and they need our help right now.”
Disaster relief for Puerto Rico has been, shall we say, slow. So, it's fair to ask why:
"I think it’s a fair ask why we’re not seeing a similar command and response,” said retired Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, the three-star general who commanded the U.S. military effort in Haiti, where 200,000 people died by some estimates. “The morning after, the president said we were going to respond in Port-au-Prince ... robustly and immediately, and that gave the whole government clarity of purpose.”
Clarity is not exactly the sitting president's métier. But since the lieutenant general asked, perhaps it is because disaster capitalists hot to snap up devalued Caribbean real estate for a song from desperate Americans who've lost everything simply don't want them helped.
Does having no evidence to support that allegation make me sound presidential?
Paul Krugman doubts there is cynical calculation behind the tepid relief for Puerto Rico. The reality-show president is simply a "massively self-centered individual who can’t bring himself to focus on other people’s needs, even when that’s the core of his job." Others' suffering is simply not his concern. Perhaps.
The same is true, Krugman writes, with the administration's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act. They're not even being coy about their efforts to undermine it.
Why are the Trumpists doing this? Is it a cynical calculation — make the A.C.A. fail, then claim that it was already doomed? I doubt it. For one thing, we’re not talking about people known for deep strategic calculations. For another, the A.C.A. won’t actually collapse; it will just become a program more focused on sicker, poorer Americans — and the political opposition to repeal won’t go away. Finally, when the bad news comes in, everyone will know whom to blame.
That's wrong. For one, the sitting president clearly means to undo everything his pedecessor, the Kenyan Pretender, accomplished.
But as I frequently observe, conservatives in power, even this crew in the White House, never do anything that is not at least a twofer. If there's a disaster, they smell profit. If their opponents achieve something, it must be destroyed ... at a profit. Not-for-profit public expenditures are a crime against capitalism, unless they profit the right people and strengthen one's grip on power. Power is the lens through which the president and his allies view the world. Money is its proxy. "Freedom" is its guise.
Assaults on labor both profit the business class and erode the political base for Democrats. Privatization of public assets in red states profits the business class and politically weaken cities (where the largest blocks of blue votes are). When the financial crises comes for blue cities, conservative legislators are counting on the public not remembering whom to blame, and that they'll accept it was "Democrat" mismanagement.
Profiting politically and financially from natural disasters and victims' suffering? Waste not, want not.
It is one way of looking at the world. The scavenger's way. The predator's way. There are plenty of animals that are successful at it in evolutionary terms. But it is not the only way and, I'd argue, not the American way.
Oddly enough, an insurance company has begun pointing to interdependence as a more human and humane alternative:
"But there's another way to live -- a way that sees the only path to fulfillment is through others, that our time here can be deep beyond measure ... What the world taught as weakness, is in fact, our greatest virtue."
I wonder do they really believe it, or just think it's good marketing?
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