[My previous article about Katrina’s effect on our economy is echoed in today’s New York Times, “Katrina’s Shock To The System”.]
Welcome to this edition of What I Think You Shouldn’t Miss in Sunday’s Papers.
I’m not enamored with most of the WP and NYT Katrina coverage, finding it either heart-rending stories of tragedy, boring and pointless analysis of the politics of hurricane relief, or updates on the relief effort that were went out of date within the time it took to print the paper. My cynicism at the politics around disaster relief are centered around the belief that no matter how badly the relief is bungled, the President will not feel any serious political damage, and therefore nobody from his cabinet will lose their jobs. The Bush’ are fiendishly loyal. In the rare case of complete incompetence, such as in the case of George Tenet’s al-Qaeda-ignorant CIA, the perpetrators are given medals of Freedom instead of held accountable. I admit that I am cynical, but my cynicism has been beaten into me by five years of no accountability, not affected out of laziness. If Bush’s Cabinet worked for Mindshare, I would have fired them all a long time ago. (And I hate firing people.)
So I suggest you read something from the Washington Post magazine (shock and horror, the WP?), “My Big Fat American Summer”, by Tyler Currie. It chronicles the story of two young Bulgarian women who come to Ocean City, MD for the summer to perform seasonal work for $8 an hour. Many American kids wouldn’t take these jobs because $8 / hour doesn’t do much to upgrade their standard of living. But foreign kids are a lot poorer, and have a deeper appreciation of that money than we do.
This isn’t a new phenomenom. If you’ve skiied, snowboarded, or lounged on a beach anywhere in North America in the last ten years, odds are the cost was kept artificially low because the resort imported these foreign workers on four month visas. The ski resort in Whistler, Canada is staffed by South Americans, Ocean City by Eastern Europeans. Once, when driving through Death Valley I found a golf resort staffed by young Germans. It helped that the clientele was mostly German tourists who found “extreme golfing” in 120 degree heat enthralling.
The one Katrina-related article I suggest you read is “How Could This Be Happening In The United States?”, by Kevin Sullivan, WP. This article provides some excellent perspective at how bad the relief has been bungled, by pointing out that the conditions that have been allowed to develop in Katrina’s wake are generally something we see in the third world. When Cuba offers you aid, and it would really, really, help, you know you’ve fucked up something big. (And of course, we’re too proud to accept it)