Monday, October 31, 2005

Whatever Happened to Poverty?

Think Again: Post-Katrina Press: Same as it Ever Was

by Eric Alterman
October 27, 2005

For a brief moment in early September, it looked like the United States was about to have a long-overdue national conversation about race and poverty. While the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans flooded and thousands of poor – and predominantly black – residents waited on rooftops to be rescued or stumbled their way to the Superdome in hope of assistance from the authorities, for once a bright light was focused on discrepancy between the nation’s haves and have-nots. Of course, many of the early reports disappeared into the ether. Thinly sourced reports of the breakdown of civilization inside the Superdome or the Convention Center were found, once the water receded, to be unfounded. On September 26, the New Orleans Times-Picayune blew the doors off many of the more horrific myths about widespread rapes and murders, and reported that the body count was much lower than had originally been expected.

Unfortunately for many in the media, these stories had originally been reported as truth, or at least distinct possibilities, for at least a week after the storm punched its way through the city, which was too bad. Talking heads and bloggers jumped all over the press, bashing news organizations over the head with charges of anti-Bush bias for reporting rumors which made an already horrific situation look worse than it was.

And yet, rather than take a good long look at poverty in America (one longs fondly for the epiphany that Matt Lauer had talking to Tim Russert on the "Today" show that poverty was the great untold story of America and that the media ought to take responsibility for missing it), we have the right wing punditry engaged in a long drawn out process of demonizing the poor and unfortunate, such that hurricane Wilma, which saw awfully mismanaged emergency preparedness and long gas lines and food lines especially in light of the Katrina tragedy, saw only shame being laid at the feet of those who couldn't get out of Wilma's way.

Oh sure, Jeb Bush took responsibility for FEMA's failures (again????), but the simple fact is, if you are poor or even middle class in this country, you really have nothing, and the illusion that you DO have something is quickly falling to the wayside, as the housing market cools, and the pension bubble bursts, and we see more and more that the "tax cuts" passed by Bush's congress (3, count 'em, three) barely stimulated the economy to a level that it should have been in 2002, much less 2006.
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