Katrina Lessons

Chuck Sheketoff

BathtubHere's some lessons from Katrina, from our friends at Demos.

Government is the collective way we address challenges together that we cannot confront alone – whether protecting us from public health threats, or building institutions such as schools or infrastructures such as roads that we all need.

An effective and capable government is an essential tool for national well-being; to neglect the role of government or to misuse its potential has dire consequences for us all.

It is government’s job to plan ahead, to anticipate problems, and to be a protector, a planner, a problem solver and to rise to the occasion when confronted with threats to our communities and our country.

Government performs best when we all are engaged in supporting its essential roles and holding it accountable to the highest public purposes and values.

Problems arise when we leave our public structures vulnerable to corruption and disrepair; the predictable result is that we act and look like a third world country.

Government is more than, and more important than, the people in power at any given time. It requires practical management from trained professionals, regardless of political administrations, to get big jobs done.

If government has failed to meet its duties, we need to fix it; if individual leaders have failed they need to be replaced with more competent ones.

We must use the public sector as an important complement to what business does and recognize that vitality in both sectors is necessary to meet the challenges ahead in ways that benefit all Americans.

Only our government and our public programs—from workforce development and housing, to public health and public safety—have the scale, capacity, and mission, to work together with the non-profit and private sectors to shepherd the recovery and rebuilding that stretches out for years before us.

Citizens can and should demand accountability from both private and public sectors, and insist on practical planning, with public participation and oversight at all levels. We want to be sure that public funds, whether they are used by public or private sectors, are used to advance the public’s well-being.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    No offense, but the last time I had lunch with Grover Norquist at The Occidental Club, he'd have to lose about 200 pounds to fit in the biggest bathtub Home Depot sells.

    Grover's wallet weighs about 17 pounds by itself, for Gosh sakes!

  • R. Nathan Hund (unverified)

    Government did have a plan. Carter was going to spend something like $10B in 1978 dollars to remake the levees around NO. Raygun came out with his Mourning in Amerika blather and the voters chose the hype. You can only insulate people so much from their own stupidity. I agree 100% with Fidel Castro's point about stupidity being a greater limit on freedoms than anything his government could enact. Of course by stupid I mean uneducated. I think the most relevant lesson from Katrina- it applies equally to any major US city, and a lot of smaller ones and overseas cultures- is that you can't beat a large segment of the populace into submission, daily, and expect to have a coherent, unified social response to disaster.

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    I think that photo with the quote is hilarious. It's like the Daily Show - just put these peoples' words in context and they appear ludicrous and inhumane, as they are.

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