Five Bailout Lessons From Katrina
Things better for your community? I didn't think so.
Welcome to Katrina world. Despite pledges of a hundred billion dollars, we are still in deep pain along the
Unless citizens are vigilant and demanding, the entire US will be subjected to the same forces that swept through the
Despite promises of buckets of bucks,
So, what lessons can be learned from Katrina world that apply to the financial bailout?
First, demand transparency. Insist on knowing how much money is being spent, by whom it is being spent, who is receiving it and for what reasons. Bloomberg News sued the Federal Reserve in November to find out who received money from the more than $2 trillion dollars in emergency loans they have given out. The government refuses to release that basic information. Such an outrage cannot be permitted.
Second, keep a constant watch out for predators. Many interests feast on the suffering of others. When disaster hits, some see opportunity for their own private interests. What Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism kicks in and the big bucks start flowing out and away from real needs. Those who are not already picking the bones are circling. It is up to us to force them away.
Third, people have to participate in the decisions. During and after a disaster, there is a vacuum of leadership, and those with the most resources usually rush in, declare an emergency and then go on to make decisions about what has to be done. Not surprisingly, these folks are focused on taking care of their own interests first, and often second and third. We cannot let emergencies be the excuse to avoid democratic decision-making.
Fourth, the human rights of the least powerful must be made a conscious priority. This is the exact opposite of what happens. The human right to housing, land, livelihood and freedom from discrimination must guide the response to the emergency. Liberation theology calls this the preferential option for the poor. Year-end bonuses continue while foreclosures increase? The needs of the poor must take priority over the wants of the rich.
Fifth, insist on gender equity. Experiences show a systematic violation of the rights of women in every phase of disasters. The presence, participation and value of the role of women have been seriously inadequate. Women bear a disproportionate burden of the effects of poverty. The human rights of women must be immediately respected, as their suffering and disrespect continues today.
If our citizens and organizations demand these five principles be respected and followed, there is a chance that the post-bailout environment will not end up like the post-Katrina landscape of
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at