“10 Under 25” young expert Alex Epstein on the politics of Katrina.
Question: What would you tell Obama to do to confront the issues revealed by Katrina?
Epstein: If I had 10 minutes to speak with Obama about this issue, I would tell him to address it more for one. I mean, he… I don’t know, I think he only said, mentioned New Orleans 5 times during his campaign, I forgot the actual statistics but it was very little and every time it was very vague reference to it, it wasn’t really specifically talking about the issue and I think a lot of that is because that this is such a… this issue is so much about race and so much about class and he specifically had deploy it as safe as possible when discussing issues about race because he as himself an African American or half African American and you know, I understand that for campaigning but now that he’s the president, he needs to speak up about this and he needs to not address this as simply a natural disaster and not even simply as the failure of the Bush regime because that the reality is that yes, Bush and FEMA screwed up in every single way that they could have but they were just as responsible as any leader for the past 40 years since those initial levees rebuilt after Betsy you know, every city officials, state official or national official who’s been involved with this at all is I think equally at fault here because no one spoke up and 40 years passed and nothing happened. Forty years passed and the wall stay there, they knew that they would fall the next time a hurricane came. They knew that the Ninth Ward would be destroyed and they not only didn’t do anything for the walls, they didn’t have an evacuation plan and you know, even for Gustav we saw much better evacuation plan. They got the people out but they still spread them out all over the country and they were still in all of the 50 states and they still took months for them to get home so you know, again it creates an illusion of progress in many ways so I think that Obama really needs to address this and needs to discuss how… discuss the issues of race and class here and just say natural disaster and Bush caused this problem but this is a systematic problem that we really need to address and you know, I would tell him that he needs to rebuild the levees in the Ninth Ward and all over the city anywhere where there’s an adequate because right now there are a psychological barrier for everyone who hasn’t come home because you know, why would you invest everything that you have left into coming back to a home that you know could be destroyed in August, in 6 months from now, in a year from now, and you know, the next time a storm comes and they’re going to becoming more frequently so, and that’s the biggest hurdles to get over in this whole rebuilding process. Anyway, it’s you know, the fear that people have in coming home and that completely make sense. So, he… I think you really needs to rebuild those levees and I think that he needs to turnover a lot of the power that the city and the state has over the rebuilding process and invest it in the people themselves and really organize and go to the community meetings that we already have established and give them the leadership and like have them decide what needs to happen and what they say happens with the levee then the Army Corp of Engineers builds it. And then, I think that they should bring home evacuated residents from New Orleans and give them the jobs on actually rebuilding the levee and on rebuilding homes and you know, he set aside 800 billion dollars for rebuilding in this country for the stimulus package. Rebuilding bridges, roads, homes allover the country and he has yet to mention New Orleans at all and the entire city needs to be rebuilt. So, that doesn’t really make much sense to me so I’d say he should target and find every single resident who has displace from the whole Gulf Coast, bring them home and give them jobs on rebuilding their own homes, their own communities, their own levees and that’s what sustainability is. It’s not just you know, going to help them, it’s working with them and empowering the people to in the end you know. Help themselves. So, that’s… if I had 10 minutes I’d kind of try and get that in there.