Completing a visit to 10-year Katrina anniversary events, presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein declared “New Orleans is a microcosm of the crisis of economic, ecologic and racial injustice in America. Much like the rest of the country, the fortunate few in New Orleans are in recovery. But vast numbers are in a continuing state of struggle, with no end in sight. For so many, the Grand Recovery is in reality a Grand Larceny. This is the neoliberal hurricane that’s blowing in every household and family of the 99% across the United States.”
“I had the honor of meeting some of the everyday heroes fighting for survival at the center of this perfect storm, including some of the inspirational co-founders and former volunteers of the Common Ground Collective. I met with tireless activists fighting for jobs, for housing and against police violence and vigilantism.
Unemployed workers spoke of the stark injustice of a city covered in construction projects, where African Americans are almost universally denied work in the rebuilding effort. Stein commented, “The bottom line is a privatized city being rebuilt in the interests of developers, with a black-white income gap that has grown by more than a third, an unconscionable black unemployment rate of over 50%, and child poverty rate of 40%, well above the disgraceful national average.”
Stein participated in a protest at a ceremony celebrating the conversion of the Iberville Public Housing project to a mixed income private development, where the units of public housing had been slashed by over 60%. She noted, “The destruction of Iberville is symptomatic of a much bigger attack, in which 14,000 units of public housing were eliminated, much of it undamaged by the storm.”
Stein spoke with teachers who described students as worse off in the new citywide charter system, riddled with mismanagement and frequent closures, where schools have lost ties to the community, and require kids to spend hours each day commuting on inadequate public transportation. The teachers labeled the claim of improved test scores a scam, driven by selective expulsions and frequent school reorganizations to dodge accountability for test results. Teachers have lost union protections and become demoralized pawns in the privatized system. Teach For America has enabled the displacement of a unionized, experienced, committed work force by a low wage, untrained, temporary labor force, where teachers quickly move on to better jobs.”
Stein also talked with college students at the Southern University of New Orleans who, she said “saw their future as grim, and worried that they would not be able to find jobs despite taking on debilitating debt to gain their degrees.”
Stein summarized, “In short, New Orleans is a poster child of disaster capitalism. Corporate interests seized the catastrophic opportunity of Katrina to privatize the city’s schools, public transportation, public housing and public health care system. In its wake, the economy is more divided and racially unjust than ever. If poverty is less visible today, it’s because it was shipped out with the forced deportation of tens of thousands of African Americans who cannot afford to return”.
She continued, “New Orleans exemplifies the failure on an epic scale of local, state and federal government run by a bipartisan corporate political system serving the economic elite. A hurricane intensified by climate change collided with a coastline carved up by the oil industry and a neglected levee system ready to rupture. The flood that resulted was compounded by racist vigilantism and a brutal, militarized evacuation that split families and sent people on one-way journeys where a hundred-thousand black people are still stranded as Internally Displaced Persons. Biased Federal relief efforts ensured recovery for largely white, middle class homeowners, and made return impossible for lower income African American homeowners and renters.”
“The miracle of New Orleans is that the spirit of its people struggles on. Once the largest market for the slave trade in the United States, it remains a wellspring of community, music, art and resistance.”
“In this setting, I found enormous enthusiasm for a new vision of national recovery demanded by grassroots groups and offered by our campaign. This vision calls for a real recovery that will provide living wage jobs for everyone who needs them as part of a national, emergency Green New Deal. This will deliver 100% renewable energy, a sustainable healthy food system, public transportation, and ecosystem restoration, while meeting human needs for housing and social services. This is the real recovery from the crisis of economic, ecologic and racial injustice that New Orleans, and the nation, deserve.”