Bush: New Orleans is "a Heckuva Place!"
And I thought I lived in a bubble. From American Progress:
On September 15, 2005, days after the largest national disaster in American history, President Bush stood in Jefferson Square and promised to "do what it takes...stay as long as it takes." Then he left -- and didn't return for three months. Yesterday, finally, Bush "dropped in" on the two cities hardest-hit by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and Bay St. Louis. Amidst "rampant devastation," Bush called New Orleans "a heckuva place to bring your family." Near neighborhoods that still "resemble a moonscape," he acknowledged "some rough spots," but "emphasized progress." Though "little has changed" over the last three months, according to the Wall Street Journal, Bush said New Orleans "is reminding me of the city I used to come to visit." His only stop in the city was "in a gleaming visitor's center in the Lower Garden District neighborhood that never suffered serious damage." True, President Bush visited the Gulf yesterday. But trapped in this bubble, seemingly detached from the details of the reconstruction efforts, he appeared not to understand the gravity of the situation. The New Orleans of old is gone, and the future of what is being built in its place is in serious doubt.
GULF REGION REMAINS IN CRISIS: Neighborhoods around New Orleans are "abandoned wastelands of uninhabitable homes and sidewalks piled with moldy garbage." Temporary housing remains scant; "whole sections lack basic utilities"; major highways remain closed and "commerce proceeds at a creep." Only about one-fifth of the pre-storm population has returned, and an estimated 12 percent of businesses are open. "The Crescent City largely has shriveled to 'the sliver by the river,' as residents now call the thin ribbon of neighborhoods near the Mississippi River that didn't flood." A lack of skilled workers (due in part to the housing shortages) has further stalled reconstruction. Much of the work is now left to an underclass of undocumented immigrants, "at once economically essential and socially marginal." The region has "been rife with reports of Latino immigrant workers left stiffed and stranded, working in hazardous circumstances without adequate training or protection, living under bridges and in abandoned cars, in overpriced trailers and overcrowded rooms, or paying $300 a month and $5 a shower to camp in New Orleans' City Park."
BUSH COMMITMENT TO KATRINA RECOVERY WEAKENING: Post-Katrina reconstruction "is a top priority for the President," Scott McClellan assured us yesterday. But this notion is quickly discredited. Though President Bush failed to check in on the Gulf for three months, he did find time to canvass the country promoting his glorified public relations campaign, dubbed the "Strategy for Victory in Iraq." Bush couldn't even be burdened to spend the full day in New Orleans; more pressing matters -- an exclusive Palm Beach fundraiser at the "sprawling oceanfront mega-mansion" of Bush Ranger Dwight Schar -- limited the visit to a few hours. And while funding for Iraq continues unabated (another $100 billion to be sought this year), Katrina victims cannot be sure their needs will be met. The $29 billion in aid passed last month was tainted by politics: the package "gave Mississippi about five times as much per household in housing aid as Louisiana received," a "testimony to the clout" of Bush's political ally, conservative Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R).