Founded in 1718, and named for the French regent, Philippe II, (duc d’Orléans), whose lifestyle would have fit right in with the Big Easy’s freewheeling reputation, the city has always been battling water. In fact, two severe hurricanes hit in 1721 and 1722, throwing no end of problems into its initial development.
Given its strategic location, though, growth was inevitable. The 1840’s and 1850’s saw waves of immigration, and along with it logistical problems, again mostly caused by floods. In their wake were occasional outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever, including a yellow fever epidemic in 1853, that claimed 8,000 lives.
The Civil War brought quick Union occupation (in April, 1862), and Reconstruction proved no kinder, with its carpetbaggers and scalawags essentially destroying the municipal treasure. When the 20th century came along, the old steamboats were no longer able to compete with the railroads, but with super-sized barges, and the introduction of the petrochemical industry in the 1950’s, the city was on its way back.
A decline in the oil industry in the mid-1980’s was fortunately met by an expansion in tourism, even as many of the middle and upper classes (of all races) left the crime-ridden city for the suburbs.
But, for a city that is situated—on average—six feet below sea level, its problem with keeping back the water would not go away. Even the flooding occurring during Hurricane Betsy in 1965 would not provide the impetus for the levees to be built higher. Disingenuous carping at George W. Bush notwithstanding, New Orleans’ problems with corruption and bureaucratic mismanagement are part of its rich history.
Even now, as I see images of the poor and homeless victims, I have to struggle with the same paradox that rises up in my mind every time I visit New Orleans: With all the tourism, conventions, and gambling going on, just where is all the money disappearing to? No other major city in America has such poverty up against a backdrop of such geographical, cultural, and economic gifts.
You can blame corruption, of course, but there’s much more here. It is abundantly clear that the very same government that extracts taxes from us is not capable of either maintaining and improving the levees, or providing adequate disaster relief. But then, why should they be able to?
Make no mistake, hurricanes come and go. Katrina did not “cause” this disaster, it was rather the failures of flood control that did, and there were plenty of warnings. If a private company were charged with maintaining the levees, instead of the US Army Corps of Engineers, there would be hell to pay. But tell me, beyond a few key firings (maybe) what will happen with any of the moribund agencies that failed to do their job? Nothing, nada, zilch. So, given zero accountability, why should they care?
Couple that with the creation of generations of a dependent class—disproportionately represented in New Orleans—and you have the makings of a true catastrophe.
While the specter of looting and other assorted lawlessness is horrific, but hardly unexpected in this functionally atheistic society, better to look for comic relief at our loonie so-called environmentalist friends on the Left. Global warming, you see, caused the hurricane, or somehow made it worse. That there have been worse hurricanes before global warming was discovered (nay, invented), or that the flood was caused by levee failure is not considered.
The Feds, and their local vassals, have shown us quite well that no matter which party is in charge, they can’t secure our borders, can’t punish the guilty, can’t protect the innocent, can’t develop a rational energy policy, can’t maintain our infrastructure, and can’t even marshal their vast resources to save their own people.
What they CAN do, though, is engage in endless political bickering and media posturing, rather than solve a single major problem. For me, that’s no better than looting.