10 Mar 05/0512 PST
Memo to Faith Hill: next time you're back in Mississippi, take a swing by Biloxi. Six months after Katrina, it's become a boom town. Of course, your home state has a governor with the leadership gene (Haley Barbour), and local mayors like A.J. Holloway who actually have a clue. Tell Tim if he's serious about becoming a political candidate, he ought to run from Louisiana. He couldn't be any more incompetent than the hacks currently running the show in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Country music stars (and self-styled disaster experts) Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have weighed in on relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina. Needless to say, Mr. McGraw (who hails from Louisiana) and his wife Ms. Hill (who grew up in Mississippi) aren't happy.
According to ABC, the two singers were angry "and close to tears" when the subject of Katrina came up at a Nashville news conference, held to promote their upcoming tour.
"To me, there's a lot of politics being played and a lot of people trying to put people in bad positions in order to further their agendas," McGraw, a 38-year-old native of Delhi, La., told ABC News Radio. When you have people dying because they're poor and black or poor and white, or because of whatever they are — if that's a number on a political scale — then that is the most wrong thing. That erases everything that's great about our country."
Sorry, Tim, but your logic choo-choo has already jumped the tracks. The National Center for Policy Analysis found that whites in New Orleans died at a higher rate than African-Americans during Hurricane Katrina. And since whites tend to earn more than African-Americans (though that gap is closing) we can extrapolate that some of the Caucasian victims were above New Orleans's median income of $32,000--which, BTW, is above the federal poverty line. So much for the "only the poor died" argument. You'll also note that Mr. McGraw forgot to mention those famous, flooded school buses that could have been used to evacuate thousands of Louisiana residents to safety--if only local politicians had acted sooner.
The Los Angeles Times--hardly a friend of the Bush Administration--did its own analysis, and came to a similar conclusion: Katrina Killed Across Class Lines, noting that the storm claimed victims from across the city, ranging from the poverty-stricken lower 9th Ward, to affluent neighborhoods like Lakeview.
For her part, Ms. Hill described the response to Katrina as "humiliating."
"I fear for our country if we can't handle our people [during] a natural disaster. And I can't stand to see it. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out point A to point B. . . . And they can't even skip from point A to point B. It's just screwed up."
I'll concede that the federal response effort has been far from perfect. But there was nothing humiliating about the Navy and Coast Guard combat swimmers, Air Force pararescuemen and helicopter crews who plucked thousands of survivors from rooftops after the storm. Ditto for the efforts of Army Lt Gen Russell Honore and his team that restored order in a chaotic city, and the military engineers who repaired broken levees and drained flooded portions of New Orleans ahead of schedule. Obviously, much remains to be done in Mississippi and Louisiana, but to dismiss the entire response effort as "humiliating" is simply preposterous. So far, the federal government has allocated the equivalent of $250,000 for every victim of Hurricane Katrina, and the final bill will likely top $100 billion. That is hardly humiliating, unless you consider the antics of some Louisiana politicians who have used the umbrella of "disaster relief" to fund every pet program imaginiable, including some that have no relation to the storm, or its aftermath.
I will give Mr. McGraw and Ms. Hill credit for raising money for storm victims, and their able recitation of Democratic Party talking points. But as disaster response or policy analysts, well, they'd better stick to singing. It is worth noting McGraw is an unabashed fan of Bill Clinton, and has hinted that he might run for the Senate from Tennessee someday. Given his comments on hurricane relief, we can hardly wait for Mr. McGraw's take on nuclear proliferation, or global monetary policy. As for his spouse, McGraw once gushed, "Wouldn't Faith make a great Senator's wife?" Well, she certainly passes the eye-candy test, and makes Tim look like a towering intellect in comparison (no easy feat). Hmmm...I guess she would make a great senator's wife.
I guess you can call them, along with the Dixie Chickens, the Nashville Left, but I have just returned from a sojourn in the South and I was shocked at the remaining debris, blue plastic covered roofs that can't be repaired because insurance companies have set a $2.15 pr sq. ft. repair limit and the lowest bids you can get are all over $5. Fences are still down, huge one and two ton trees with root systems 12 to 15 feet high lay everywhere, canals are still blocked, and so on. Bush just doesn't get it. He should be down there instead of in India. Trust me, the locals are no longer Republicans. Government at all levels has broken down.
My son and I went to Long Beach, MS last week to help in the rebuilding effort as volunteers. We were shocked at the level of devastation confronting the local inhabitants. But, more importantly, we were impressed with the 'can do' attitude, and lack of 'poor me'. It seems Mississippians, and Alabamans have chosen to help themselves, rather than wait for someone (govt.) to do it for them. Their tangible reward has been a huge outpouring of support from the rest of the country through various organizations, most notably church groups.
It seemed to us that the whole area from Biloxi to Pass Christian was a huge beehive of activity. There were large signs along Rt. 90 thanking FEMA for their efforts in providing temporary housing. Signs erected by private individuals. The biggest problem seems to be that the level of demand for skilled tradesmen far outstrips the supply available. This is not a government problem, and people recognize that.
My point is simply that what is probably the largest natural disaster to strike the US is not repairable by throwing money at it. The rebuilding process will take at LEAST 3-5 years, and remains a huge logistical nightmare. I think McGraw and Hill have the attitude that if you want something done, just hire someone. What if there is no one to hire?
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