Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Military Rule of New Orleans

The City of New Orleans is out of cash, the Mayor says.

This isn't surprising. The City of New Orleans gets the vast majority of its money from two sources: 1) Sales tax, and 2) a city-imposed payroll tax. In both cases, the money is submitted on a monthly basis to the city by the 5th of the month. Which obviously didn't happen this month, because both the businesses collecting these taxes, and the City Hall to accept the tax money, are underwater.

So what now? Well, with no money, there are no city workers -- they either walk off the job due to not being paid, or they are laid off. With no city workers, there are no firemen, no policemen, no garbage men, nobody running the water works, no one running the sewer plant, no one filling potholes, no nothing.

So what's the end result? Well, the end result is a de-facto Federal protectorate, with police and fire protection provided by the military, and all other services (water, sewer, etc.) provided by Halliburton and the rest of the usual suspects under contract to FEMA, which has been granted a $60 billion blank check by Congress to enrich Bush Administration cronies. FEMA of course being this amazingly wonderful agency that just works *so well* that, of *course* we must entrust it with $60B more money... talk about rewarding failure!

Now, there are some conspiracy theorists who see this as a prelude, a test case, for a military takeover of the entire United States. And indeed, this really *is* unprecedented. The last time we lost a city -- the 1906 San Francisco earthquake -- the military stepped into a similar role, but they did so under the direct control of the Mayor of San Francisco in order to bypass the Posse Comitatus law (i.e., the troops were placed under the direct command of the Mayor, who then directed them to where they were needed). The only other precedent I can think of actually is from New Orleans, in the time period 1862-1865 when New Orleans was the spoils of war under the command of Federal troops under General Benjamin "Beast" Butler, most famous for the Woman's Order. But that was in the midst of a massive civil war, rather than in peacetime.

Given the precedent (1906) for putting the federal response to a disaster within a city under the command of the local mayor, I cannot begin to fathom why that is not happening here. Oh wait, yes I can -- the porkocrats in charge of our porkocracy (rule of the people by the porkocrats for the porkocrats) see the opportunity for profit. And if siezing control of an entire city at gunpoint is what is most profitable for the porkocrats... why, what a shame that FEMA can't give the mayor any of that $60 billion dollars to keep his policemen and firefighters on the job, but, y'know, Halliburton needs the money worse than some soon-to-be-unemployed New Orleans cops and firefighters, right? Right?!

- Badtux the History Penguin

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