Class and Katrina

I was listening to the podcast of KQED’s Forum this morning and the topic was the long term health effects of Katrina. There were some comments made during the show that got me thinking about the differences between the hurricane and 9/11.

I don’t know if there was any measurable difference between the response to these two tragedies. I’m not an emergency response official and can’t accurately come to any conclusion with the amount of publicly available data out today. However, some comments about the role of the families in pressuring Congress and the President to launch the investigation into 9/11 got me thinking. From what I understand President Bush was very opposed to allowing this investigation to move forward, but was only swayed later on when the families of those killed in the tragedy were able to bring significant political and legal pressure to bear.

I’m very curious to see if in the aftermath of Katrina, as the rebuilding process begins, if there is a similar group of families that is able to bring pressure on the federal government. I’m concerned that because the majority of those who lost their lives were elderly or poor, unable to afford high priced attorneys, that we won’t see the same pressure. That a few months from now people will move on with their lives and forget about the mistakes that caused that tragedy to be worse than it could have been.

I don’t think President Bush would be callous enough to intentionally act differently against a city inhabited with poor refugees, but I do think that an army of attorneys can get him to do some things that he’d rather not. Without that pressure the President will focus on the politically easiest solution instead of the right solution and that is where the difference lies.