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Friday, October 21, 2005

Security After New Orleans

Dearest Freedomlovers:

What do you make of this commentary below? A web acquaintance in a beardedpig freedom love chatroom shared it with me. Can I trust it? It is so difficult these days, even for Captn Freedom, to distinguish between ersatz and pure freedom love. This calls for a movement of freedomlovers committed to examining the statements and actions of those who bear the resemblance to a freedom sheep to distinguish whether they are indeed so or, tragically, counterfeit freedom wolves in sheep's clothing.

Feel free to comment and circulate it.

Security after New Orleans

Poignant images of poor New Orleans residents retreating from the deluge have touched a nation and a world, raising troublesome questions about security and the cyclical issue of poverty in the United States. For some older Americans, these images evoke an earlier security panic—the Great Depression. We are hearing talk about New Deals: both the rediscovery of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s and the promise of George W. Bush’s. Beneath the surface of apparent similarity, however, the two deals and the insecurity they promise to relieve are fundamentally different. Bush’s affinity for the New Deal does not run deep, and this is not the first time that he and his predecessors have used its keywords to support policies that undermine its spirit of securing freedom for all Americans.

Roosevelt’s deal was new by comparison to the security and freedom doctrine that came before him. His predecessor Herbert Hoover responded to a condition of national insecurity with ineffective solutions of rugged individualism and minimalist government. Roosevelt argued for a more activist federal government, not to expand government-for-government’s-sake, but because the Depression had shown that individuals could no longer be held completely responsible for their own security. In a time when small shopkeepers, entrepreneurs and farmers were fast disappearing, Roosevelt identified the primary threat to security as the market free of public interest. He promoted a vision of Abraham Lincoln’s government of, by, and for the people as a citizen’s vehicle for dealing with the inevitable and sometimes catastrophic whims of nature, markets and businesses. He maintained this mature vision of security even in the throes of World War II, emphasizing the equal importance of military and social security. For Roosevelt, the social and economic aspects of security were so critical to American freedom that he went so far as to call for an Economic Bill of Rights to supplement the already existing political Bill of Rights.

At the heart of Roosevelt’s New Deal was his argument that freedom could not be viewed as a natural state individually embraced through work or willingly denied through sloth when 1/3 of the American nation was ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed. In fact, Roosevelt viewed such poverty as a threat to the nation’s political, social and military security.

The poverty laid bare by Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that obtrusive conditions confronted during the Depression do in fact persist today. Bush’s response to this is far from “new.” Like Hoover, Reagan, and his own father before him, Bush continues to promote self-discipline and private cures, including voluntarism, as solutions to large-scale security problems. In this decades-old argument, the federal government should cut all but verbal support for those living in insecure economic conditions, leaving the relief work to good Samaritans who represent the best of the American spirit. But the private sphere of charities could not deal with the magnitude of the security fallout in New Orleans.

The media unwittingly promoted this voluntarist line, telling the New Orleans story almost exclusively through the melodramatic frames of individual heroism and natural disaster. Largely absent from this coverage was an analysis of how Bush and his predecessors’ attempts to repeal the (old) New Deal directly contributed to the un-natural disaster that was Katrina. Katrina was a necessary cause for New Orleans, but it was not sufficient. By relentlessly trimming the “fat” of FDR’s legacy from the federal budget—including income supports, transportation, and public works such as levee repair—the Bush administration has left behind a skeleton security state unable to withstand any significant threat.

In the wake of the hurricane, Bush has promised support for minority-owned small businesses but has failed to specify how education, public health, and other key resources will be permanently secured for vulnerable citizens. On the contrary, he and some Republicans have argued that reconstruction can be financed by trimming more fat. Additional cuts would only aggravate the insecurity of poor Americans. Besides, why reconstruct if only to abandon citizens to insecurity again?

George W. Bush staked his reputation on security and has said repeatedly that his number one duty is to protect U.S. citizens. The deep floodwaters of New Orleans revealed just how shallow our understanding of security really is.

4 Comments:

Blogger Captain Freedom said...

Dear Jay,
This is Jay2, and I'd say this sounds like a liberal rant. You call yourself freedomloving? FDR was the headquarters of the axis of liberal evil.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Captain Freedom said...

Jay2,
Oh, no. In fact, FDR was posing as a liberal. In fact it's George W. Bush who has abandoned the freedom-loving tradition that included FDR. I mean I know he _says_ he's for freedom but then he kowtows to all those liberal elites in Hollywood and New York (behind the scenes of course). Haven't you read Guy Smiley's important book?

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear (obviously blue) Jays,

It seems to me that to be liberal_and_evil is to mostly just be lazy, to talk sans walk. FDR spoke well and left a legacy that is still referenced today in bright light. His was not just liberal rant as it had lasting effects both ideologically as well as structuraly. The better point here is the issue of security (of resources) abroad vs. security at home. Ain't no point in bringin' home the bacon if the house burnt down while you were out.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Captain Freedom said...

Dear Anon,
First, I'm not blue. I'm really quite happy even when, or especially when I'm hating liberal elites, though I am red, white, and blue. I would have to disagree about FDR. FDR's "legacy" is hardly in "bright lights," (thank goodness, many freedom lovers say)after several decades of necessary cooptations of his terms and attacks on his programs. I'm not sure what you mean by security of resources abroad vs. security at home. But I wholeheartedly agree it's a problem to fry bacon without a stove and griddle. A stove and griddle for every blueblooded freedomlover! Long live freedom, anon! Blessed are the freedomlovers!

8:32 AM  

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