Race and Response Time

Just finished watching President Bush on the news defending his administration against charges that the slow federal reaction to Katrina was motivated by racism, that all-purpose smear for anyone who for any reason offends the current guardians of Thought Purity. What a thesis! Think of it! President Bush calls in Karl Rove, well-known genius of the political double juke move. “Karl, what about it? Should we send help in now, or wait a day or two?” “By all means, Mr. President, we have to wait. New Orleans is seventy percent . . . minority. We can solve lots of problems by just letting Katrina rip. I can get the National Guard to dither around a bit.”

Anyone who buys this is either not too bright, or in the grip of a very high order of Paranoia. But those who are propagating this nonsense don’t really buy it themselves — rather they advance these sentiments out of their sheer cynical commitment to power politics.

What was the real cause of the slow response to Katrina? Aside from the local refusal to implement the plans they had drafted? And the governor’s delay in asking the feds to come in? In addition to the local problems, there were problems with the federal reflexes. What caused the problem?

Political observers should recall the debate over the creation of Homeland Security, along with moving a bunch of agencies under the new department, creating a whole new layer of bureaucracy. “There! That should do it.” This is the liberal’s idea of streamlining — make something big and bloated. The liberal thinks that if something is streamlined on paper, then it must be ready to leap into action being all streamlined like it is. The old Soviet plans would streamline things so that there was only one gas station at an intersection, which made much better sense, and looked so much more streamlined on paper. The only problem was that there wasn’t any gas. In a market economy, there are three to five gas stations at an intersection — looking quite messy on paper — but at least there was lots of gas. Now, is the point streamlining the flow chart on your agency wall, or streamlining the flow of gas into the tank?

Reformers in Washington cannot get it into their minds that what they are reforming is always the last round of reforms. Political reforms always saddle us with the law of unintended consequences. And this brings us back to the question of race, which will have to be debated in a responsible manner sometime in the near future.

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