Bad times are rolling...

Chaos... Anarchy... Urban Warfare...

Are these the words we must use to describe one of my most beloved cities? Is it possible? As I sit here in Tokyo, I am shocked, enraged, and most of all embarassed. Is this my country?

The Washington Post reports today that this is the largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War 140 years ago. Tens of thousands of people are abandoning the New Orleans area. They are spreading out across the South, and into other regions of the United States. The impact will be huge.

First, many tens and thousands of these people will start to reconstruct their lives wherever they have landed. If you live from paycheck to paycheck, you will simply stay where you are once you get a job. The population will turn to a small town over the next week, but over the next six months I do not suspect the population will return to what it was a few days ago. This will have huge raminfacations for the tax base and planning of N.O.

In the communities where these people are going, life will not be the same. A sudden growth of 10,000, 20,000 or more people to Houston, San Antonio, Little Rock, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Birmingham, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and other cities throughout the region will rock local economies. Where will these people live? Where will they work?

Even in other cities where the population growth will not be as large (a few hundred or a few thousand) the sheer poverty will be a strain. Shelters in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky are braced to accept stragglers who make the 1000 mile journey there. This will be a short term burden, but certainly can be overcome.

For the city of New Orleans though, this loss will be irreparable. The people who live in N.O. do so because they love the city. However, many people (a large percentage of the city was below the poverty line, and now below the water line too) will leave and never come back. Will cities attempt to relocate what will become unwanted refugees?

Another issue that is fuming under the surface is racism. The people who didn't or couldn't get out or wouldn't get out are the poorest members of the community. 2/3 of N.O. was African American. Many of them were poor, and most of the lowest lying neighborhoods were mostly (90% or more) African American. These are the people suffering the most.

For racists across the country, the images seen on TV will confirm their negative stereotypes. I know that not all the looting is committed by African Americans, but when the poorest and the blackest are who remain to loot, that is the image that will be captured.

As for the nation as a whole, the gas prices are real crisis. Prices have doubled in just a few months, and will not retreat to their former prices. Those gas guzzling Ford Expiditions and Explorers will become hugely unpopular. A trend of moving from these monsters to fuel efficient cars like the Toyota Prius will continue, and speed up. Most likely, Ford will close its two factories in my hometown, two of the largest employers in the city.

Both my father and my brother rely heavily on their vehicles for work - my brother is a police officer and as such works out of his car and my father works throughout central Kentucky, often driving a few hundred miles a day from worksite to worksite. These costs will be passed onto the taxpayers of my hometown and those who use the phones. Once winter sets in, heating oil and natural gas too will spike.

This is a doomsday situation for the Republican Party. Why is it we can send the U.S. military (and more importantly the health and welfare support they have with them) anywhere in the world, but we can't get food and water into N.O.? Why is it U.S. soldiers in Iraq have access to Subway, Sony Playstations, large screen TVs, not to mention a nightly buffet, but we can't get drinking water to N.O.? The response has been large and relatively quick, but the suffering has been worse. Something must be done, and must be done soon to help the people of New Orleans.

I am glued to the TV. N.O. isn't my hometown, but I proposed to my wife there. Just next to the Convention center there is balcony that overlooks the Mississippi River. That is where I did it - today the stores adjacent to that balcony are surely looted, the street is covered in feces, and people are living worse than animals. That is about as close to hitting to home I can imagine...

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