Democrats & Liberals Archives

An Expanded View of Security

“Starve the beast,” conservatives have been advising us for several decades. Ronald Reagan told us that the government is not the solution, that the government is the problem. Both Bushes have been following this philosophy - until 9/11. Then, George W. Bush decided that the “beast” is needed primarily for maintaining security; he boosted the military and “starved” everything else. Katrina crashed into New Orleans and demonstrated that the old view of security is wrong. Many of the “starved” sectors are needed to keep our people - all the people - secure.

Grover Norquist, the super-conservative, said that we should:

"get the federal government down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub."

We did reduce government. However, the government did not drown. People drowned. The poor people of New Orleans drowned. The sick and infirm people of New Orleans drowned. The black people of New Orleans drowned. Many people on the Gulf in Mississippi and Alabama drowned. A million people who did not drown were made homeless.

After 9/11, in the name of national security, we had increased defense and the military. The defense budget for 2006 is about $419 billion. Some commentators maintain that the true cost of the military sector is double this amount. While we gorged the military, we "starved" the rest of the "beast."

Because we "starved the beast" by reducing environmental measures, we ruined the wetlands. By doing so, the wetlands no longer can act as a buffer to reduce the violence of hurricanes. By crippling environmental regulations and not increasing car fuel efficiency, we increased global warming. Global warming did not bring Katrina, but it definitely made the Gulf warmer, which increased the fury of the hurricane.

Because we "starved the beast" by neglecting the building of a solid, dependable disaster communication system, coordination among local, state and federal officials was stymied in the resurrection of New Orleans after Katrina hit. All those involved said so.

Because we "starved the beast" by neglecting the planning of a dependable disaster transportation system, too many people could not be evacuated from New Orleans. The rich made it on their own. The poor were stuck.

Because we "starved the beast" by not having a disaster health care plan for saving the sick, many of these people died in hospitals. Because we do not have a universal health care system that serves all people, many people will, as a result, die in future Katrinas.

Because we "starved the beast" by reducing money for education, many people in New Orleans were not well informed and did not know how to save themselves and how to contact other people for help. Uneducated people make disaster relief hard.

Because we "starved the beast" by not helping working people - by not increasing the minimum wage, for instance - many people lived in miserable ghettos that disintegrated, drowning some and causing others to drift aimlessly.

Real security depends upon having an integrated infrastructure ready to protect our people - all of them. Military capabilities are, of course, essential. However, the following previously-neglected areas of security are needed as well:

  • DISASTER COMMUNICATION SYSTEM - Our country boasts so many communication technologies. But what we need is one communication system that lights up at the advent of a disaster, made by man or by nature, and then is constantly available until no longer needed. We need more than technology. We need an excellent plan for coordination of all necessary military and disaster mitigation people

  • DISASTER TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM - We know a good trasportation system is a boon to military preparedness. This is one reason we have the interstate highway system. We need such a system for all types of disasters. With a good disaster transportation system in place, all, or at least most, of the poor people of New Orleans would have been evacuated in time. We must be ready in the future to be able to transport people quickly from almost anywhere in the country to anywhere else - fast

  • ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SECURITY - We haven't been thinking of the environment as being important in the maintenance of our security. However, a healthy environment is of strong importance. Maintaining a healthy environment would prevent many poor people from getting lung and stomach ailments and cancers. Keeping the marshes and the tiny islands of the wetlands healthy could have softened the New Orleans disaster. The same is true of other areas of the country, such as California's delta. Improving air and water quality can keep us safe from a different type of disaster: a disease epidemic

  • PERSONAL HEALTH SECURITY - People die from many things. Extremely few die from the actions of terrorists. Some die from natural disaster, as we see in New Orleans. But many people die because they do not have access to health care. About 45 million don't have health insurance. A Universal Health System that serves the needs of all of us - rich and poor alike - is what we need to prevent many avoidable deaths

  • EDUCATION SECURITY - I know we have an educational system for everybody. But the system serves the rich a lot better than the poor. The poor attend dilapidated schools that look more like prisons than schools. The instruction they get is inferior. We need to provide the same good education to the poor that we provide to the rich. Every person should have education security, not only so he or she may obtain gainful employment, but to know what to do in the case of a disaster

  • JOB SECURITY - When you listen to the black Katrina victims, you realize that some of them are in such dire straits because they are unemployed and unemployable. We must build a system where everyone can be trained to do higher and higher levels of jobs. And those people who can absorb only a limited amount of training, should be guaranteed a job that pays for life's necessities - a minimum wage at or above the poverty level
Katrina shouts "don't drown the government." Make the government strong enough to run military actions but also to fight natural disasters. Don't "starve the beast." Instead nourish society, all of society, rich and poor. Don't depend only on military actions for security. Instead build a countrywide infrastructure that also includes communication, transportation, environment, health, education and job elements.

Katrina tells us we must have an expanded view of security.

Posted by Paul Siegel at September 19, 2005 6:32 PM