Forum editorial: The nation responds to disaster
Pundits and politicians who concluded that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina qualified New Orleans and the Gulf Coast for Third World status are wrong. No Third World nation could mount the public and private relief effort that is under way righ...
Pundits and politicians who concluded that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina qualified New Orleans and the Gulf Coast for Third World status are wrong. No Third World nation could mount the public and private relief effort that is under way right now. No Third World country could move to quickly relocate tens of thousands of disaster victims, even as criticism of the initial response escalates.
Indeed, the very fact that Americans are angry about what they believe to have been a slow official response to the storm confirms that American expectations are First World and the response to the tragedy will be First World.
The talk about the "Third World coming to the United States" is nonsense. An honest examination of what really happens in undeveloped and under developed nations when natural disasters strike proves the point. There are places on the globe today that have not recovered from floods, earthquakes and other disasters years after the event. Some hard hit regions in poor or unresponsive nations never recover. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will be well on their way to restoration in less than a year.
That's guaranteed, not by hubris, but by the reality of the nation's response to Katrina's aftermath. If public wheels seem to be grinding slowly, Americans all over the country are not waiting. The private response has been nothing short of astonishing. The generosity of the people of the United States was never in doubt, yet the outpouring of dollars, services and relief supplies thus far reflects the best in the American spirit. (See Kim Koppelman's commentary on this page.)
Estimates of the cost of recovery are upwards of $200 billion, making Katrina the most expensive U.S. natural disaster. Some $65 billion is working its way through Congress. More likely will come from Uncle Sam. But when the overall effort is assessed, we suspect the largest share of the billions needed to make the Gulf Coast whole again will have come from private sources: churches, businesses and business organizations, schoolchildren, professional associations and individuals.
The help flowing to the Deep South from even the far North - Minnesota and North Dakota - clearly demonstrates the nation's capacity to do what is necessary to repair the damage. There is nothing "Third World" about that.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.