I have A New Post up at Global Comment.
Katrina was a catastrophic event and the American government stood by impotent and unaffected while many were left to suffer. What the Katrina victims had in common was that they were largely poor and black. Katrina made real in a human sense the cost of the soci-economic inequality that has become normalized as part of the American system. Wealth affords more than creature comfort; wealth can translate to life and death.
Today there is yet another disaster burning its way through the United States. As I write this, Santa Barbara is ablaze. The owners of homes in the Montecito area which have suffered the most damage have long since fled. Unlike so many Katrina victims they did not have to stay behind and risk life and limb because they are wealthy enough to own transportation.
When you earn the kind of money that Rob Lowe, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas do, a natural disaster can mean the loss of literally millions of dollars. Unlike the Katrina survivors, other than personal items like family photos and heirlooms, most other possessions are easily replaceable. It is in fact more than likely that the fire victims will not have to dig into their personal finances to replace their losses because most will have insurance.
In a country where many do not have health insurance, insuring property is not even a thought for the poor and disenfranchised. When a natural disaster occurs wiping away your meagre possessions, it can be impossible to recover from. Add to this the economic downturn and poverty becomes a black hole from which there is no escape.