Last week, more than six years after Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began mailing out notices to victims of the storm that ripped through the Gulf region. The message: Give us our money back.
FEMA is asking more than 83,000 recipients of aid to reimburse the government an average of $4,622 each, BlackAmericaWeb reports. The agency says that clerical or employee errors may have resulted in some victims receiving more compensation than what may now be allocated.
David Bellinger, a 63-year-old legally blind former New Orleans resident who moved to Atlanta after his home was leveled by the storm, said he “nearly had a stroke” when he received his $3,200 bill, with 30 days to pay. “I’m totally blind; I subsist entirely on a Social Security disability check. If I have to pay this money back, it would pretty much wipe out all the savings I have.”
I don’t know even to say about this that doesn’t reduce me to angrily sputtering an excessive amount of profanity. These people have suffered enough already. New Orleans is gradually being turned into a Disney version of its previous self that includes much fewer poor folk and minorities, and these people who have had their communities and support network shredded by the storm, the flooding, and the evacuation all across the United States have suffered enough. These folk had to get their feet again in strange cities in the middle of the worst economic crisis since 1929. If they got a bit more cash than they were supposed to through no fault of their own, LET THEM KEEP IT. Hell, it will probably do more to stimulate the economy than any of the tax cuts Obama has put through.
I don’t know why this is even being considered as an option. Someone should have considered exactly how shit-awful it’d look when this went out. It’s good to know that FEMA continues its tradition of incompetence no matter who is in the White House.
Roughly three-quarters of the public (77%) say that they think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the United States. About nine-in-ten (91%) Democrats and eight-in-ten (80%) of independents hold this view; a much narrower majority (53%) of Republicans do as well. For historical perspective, six-in-ten (60%) Americans expressed this view in a 1941 Gallup poll.
Reflecting a parallel sentiment, 61% of Americans now say that the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy; just 36% say the system is generally fair to most Americans. About three-quarters (76%) of Democrats and 61% of independents share this view. In contrast, a majority (58%) of Republicans say that the system is generally fair to most Americans.
This poll combined with the polling on socialism I wrote about a couple of days ago says to me that the declaration of Occupy’s death by the media is premature. I mean, it’s not entirely surprising that a media that’s so thoroughly dependent on advertising money from big businesses has been studiously ignoring Occupy actions, but it is kind of shocking exactly how hard it’s been dropped despite significant stories continuing to emerge nationwide, like Occupy protestors reinforcing a picket line, arrests for spurious reasons, and other legal bullshit like making protestors take free speech classes, especially when you contrast it with the way the media still talks about the Tea Party as a going concern.
Even if the media is right and Occupy is on its way down, it means the movement is coming off the field having not finished its work, which means there’s an opening for further efforts to emerge and take shape. Income inequality and the enthrallment of the political system to the employing class aren’t issues that have been resolved. Even if Occupy is flickering out and lacks sufficient support, these polls mean that Occupy’s organizational shape was insufficient for the task ahead of it and not that there isn’t a sizable amount of agreement with the general energy behind the movement.
As I’ve said before, Occupy is, to me, a transitional form. It might have been impossible for it to be a permanent structure, but Occupy is a fantastic way to get the discussion going right now about the past twenty-five years of neoliberalism and how it has ruined lives. The organizations that start to chop down the problems choking our society will have to, at least initially, take relatively conventional forms like industrial unions and (to a lesser extent, in my opinion) political parties. This won’t always be the case as society is changed to be more participatory in nature, but at the start it will be absolutely necessary because these organizational forms have a proven track record of engendering change.
In any event, I’m waiting to see how the media covers these polls and what it will mean for the political campaigns ahead. The answers to those questions are probably, “they won’t,” and, “nothing,” but a man can hope.