Opinion » Bill Cope

Rotten Harvest

We reap what they have sown


This will be my third week in a row using the Katrina mess as subject matter. I don't apologize. The only other time I spent three contiguous weeks on one theme was when it became clear that Bill Clinton truly had frolicked in the Oval Office with Missy Monica. And by golly, if I can dedicate three weeks worth of my attentions to a blowjob, surely I can do the same with what may be the worst catastrophe to befall America in a lifetime.

Furthermore, I intend to repeat herein what many others across the land are saying. Generally, I do my best to not mouth what's coming out of other people's minds. My opinions mean a lot to me--if no one else--so I don't want them sounding like something you could buy off the shelf at Thoughts-R-Us.

But in this case, what's being said is so damn important, it demands to be repeated. Over and over. Again and again. From the rooftops, from the streets, from the Halls of Congress, the pulpits, gutters, the Silver Screen, the Ivied Towers, the Fifth Estate and, yes, even my humble column ... until so many Americans finally get it that we will never again elect fools like these to high office.

Here it is: What has happened on the Gulf Coast is the direct, logical and inevitable result of what certain conservatives have been trying to achieve since Teddy Roosevelt busted their trust a century back--a federal presence so weak and ineffectual, it can no longer defend the powerless from the powerful, the struggling from the privileged, the prey from the predatory practice ... let alone act effectively when a disaster of Katrina proportions comes along.

Egad--if only that were as easy to repeat as "blowjob," maybe we could get somewhere.

Katrina did the initial damage, who can argue? (In the interest of brevity, I'll sidestep the possibility that such a potent storm may have developed because of man-made global warming, despite denials by those whose profits bar climbs in direct proportion to the greenhouse gas count. If the trend continues--if over the years, the hurricane season continues to expand, breeding more and more huge storms until we have to add categories six, seven and beyond to describe them--then at some point, we must discuss global warming in its true context, as the ultimate screwing of the have-nots by the want-it-alls.) It's the dismal response by the administration that has so enraged and dumbfounded Americans, regardless of political affiliations.

After all, isn't this, in part, what we have been paying taxes for? Isn't this what we have a government for in the first place--to establish a community strong enough, large enough, wealthy enough and codependent enough that even the worst calamity, the most painful suffering and the most catastrophic losses can be cushioned by a shared commitment to our common health and safety? Isn't that the point of having agencies such as FEMA, OSHA, the EPA ... to act as allies against those evils--be they acts of God or man--too overwhelming to be dealt with by mere individuals, municipalities or even states?

Really, whether you're Republican or Democrat, haven't you grown to expect that the highest levels of our nation will act--ASAP--should an earthquake bring your California condo down about your ears, or a blanket of snow and ice drops the entire Midwest to its knees?

Well, citizen, that's not the way the corporate right sees it. And don't swallow that nonsense about them wanting a leaner government. They want plenty of government, believe you me. Fat, fat government. They want a military that cannot be challenged, a prison system second to none and an intelligence establishment that will fabricate whatever stories they need to keep their special interests humming. They want major boondoggles and defense contracts on which they can run the cost up by several hundred percent, and they want to make damn sure those sneaky Canadians aren't selling reasonably priced pharmaceuticals to strapped Americans. All that takes tons of government, and they know it.

Nor are they against taxation, as long as it's not them being taxed. They have nothing whatsoever against our tax dollars pouring into their off-shore accounts, and they see nothing wrong with subsidized grazing, subsidized logging, subsidized mining, subsidized this and subsidized that ... as long as they can receive a tax break on top of the subsidy. They adore the idea that you and I and the rest of the middle class are coughing up the bucks so that no-bid privateers like Halliburton are free to gouge on everything from soldiers' meals to the New Orleans cleanup.

No sir, they have nothing against big government or the taxes to pay for it. They just don't want those tax revenues going to anyone but them, or that government doing anything for the people who need government the most. Whether it be small businesses, the elderly, the wage earners, children, the poor, the sick, the disturbed, consumers, the environment, wildlife, credit card users, gasoline buyers, family farmers, organized labor, women, minorities, soldiers--you name it, if your title doesn't include "CEO," you have lost ground in this onslaught.

They have hacked away at those networks most involved in protecting or promoting anyone but themselves. They have bled the institutions dry with funding cuts and neutered our most worthy endeavors with internal saboteurs. So does it even matter that such a worthless sack of cronyfied crap like Michael Brown could be named to head something as essential as FEMA, given that the agency was already being gutted from within?

It is only by the terrible grace of Katrina that we can now recognize the devastation of the Bush years. Ten-thousand people stranded for days on their roofs is one hell of an awakening. The rest of Bush's victims are much easier to ignore, given that they go under one at a time or in small family groupings, well out of camera range and away from reporters' mikes.

We have to ask, though: How many other federal agencies have a political appointee of Brown's caliber in the driver's seat? How many other agencies will fail us at the very moment we need their help the most? How many of our federal lifelines have corroded into uselessness under this foul spell? How many citizens have already been lost?

How many? We will probably never know, seeing as how the essence of this neo-conservative blight is to ignore both the past and the future.