In 2005, more than 1,800 people died in Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, causing epic proportions of destruction and displacing thousands of people.
Many suffering people thought the government’s immediate response to the hurricane’s aftermath in New Orleans was not quick enough, and former President George Bush was widely criticized for not realizing the scope of the disaster until later. Those are simply nonpartisan facts. People still disagree on whether Bush deserved the criticism or not.
It’s important to keep these facts in mind as Republicans try to spin the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana as President Barack Obama’s “Katrina.” The initial explosion on the ocean oil platform killed 11 people, which is tragic, but it’s not anywhere close to 1,800 deaths. No one has been displaced. No homes or schools have been destroyed. There are not thousands upon thousands of people suffering in the heat without water or food. The federal government is doing everything it can to stop the leak in conjunction with BP, which is going to pay for the cleanup.
In fact, the leak, which is causing an environmental disaster, can on one level be attributed to the GOP-backed philosophy of drilling for oil wherever it can be found despite the consequences on the environment. It can also be attributed to market fundamentalism, another piece of GOP ideology, which supports deregulation and fewer government restrictions on businesses like oil companies. I’m not arguing that there are no Democrats who support these positions, but market fundamentalism-the idea that markets will correct errors on their own without government intervention-has been a mainstay of Republican ideology.
The loss of lives on the oil platform is tragic and the spill is creating an environmental disaster, but to compare it to Katrina is to minimize what happened in 2005. It’s just an obvious political ploy to distort the underlying causes of the spill and to deflect attention away from GOP “drill, baby, drill” sloganeering. The leak, which some experts say has spewed as much as 39 million gallons of oil into the ocean, shows this country needs to turn to renewable, alternative energy sources as quickly as possible. That’s the real story of the spill, a story the GOP wants to hide with a pointless, absurd comparison.
Obama is not responsible for decades of deregulation and corporate favoritism. He’s not responsible for the fact the country needs to have better public transportation systems so Americans will use less oil. He didn’t invent the SUV.
The spill is not Obama’s Katrina; it’s the culmination of harmful political ideologies that place corporate profits above anything else.