from Autumnal Tints by Henry David Thoreau
A great many, who have spent their lives in cities, and have never chanced to come into the country at this season, have never seen this, the flower, or rather the ripe fruit, of the year. I remember riding with one such citizen, who, though a fortnight too late for the most brilliant tints, was taken by surprise, and would not believe that there had been any brighter. He had never heard of this phenomenon before. Not only many in our towns have never witnessed it, but it is scarcely remembered by the majority from year to year.
Most appear to confound changed leaves with withered ones, as if they were to confound ripe apples with rotten ones. I think that the change to some higher color in a leaf is an evidence that it has arrived at a late and perfect maturity, answering to the maturity of fruits. It is generally the lowest and oldest leaves which change first. But as the perfect winged and usually bright-colored insect is short-lived, so the leaves ripen but to fall.
Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. On the Gulf Coast, the reverse is happening. Federal state and local governments are teaming up with corporations and developers to systematically steal hurricane relief funds from the poor to enrich themselves. Billions of dollars were given to help the communities damaged by Katrina. The people gave this money to help the working, elderly and disabled people of the Gulf Coast rebuild and restart their lives after Katrina.
The need is still great. Over three hundred thousand people remain displaced from the City of New Orleans alone. Hundreds of thousands of others on the rest of the Gulf Coast are also not home. Over 80,000 families in Louisiana are living in FEMA trailers. Texas says they have 250,000 displaced people and Georgia reports another 100,000. Tragically, money that was supposed to go to those in need is instead being diverted by federal, state and local politicians and corporations who have swooped down on these billions and are taking them for other purposes. Example one. Congress allocated $10.4 billion through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to rebuild Louisiana. By law, over 50% of these funds are supposed to benefit low and moderate income people. As of November 1, 2006, only eighteen people have actually received any of this money to fix up their homes, out of over 77,000 homeowners who have applied for assistance. Yes, only 18!
This seems especially poignant with the holiday season upon us.
Ashbritt of Florida was awarded a contract over $500 million to clean up debris in Mississippi despite not owning a single dump truck. Ashbritt had paid a GOP lobbyist firm $40,000 right before the storm and another $50,000 directly to the GOP the year before. Ceres Environmental of Brooklyn Park, MN was given a $500 million contract for debris removal in LA by the Corps of Engineers. In the previous 4 years, the company had received a total of $29 million in government contracts. The Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance listed the company as a provider of “yard waste compost and horticultural potting soil.”
Circle B Enterprises was awarded $287 million in contracts by FEMA to build trailers despite not even being licensed to build homes in its own state of Georgia and filing for bankruptcy in 2003. The company does not even have a website.
Other corporations profiting off the devastation include Bechtel, Blackwater, CH2M Hill, Fluor, Halliburton subsidiary KBR and many others.
All these companies are not faceless bureaucracies as would be the conventional wisdom. They are run by human beings, Americans. Those Americans probably imagine themselves basically good people. They like to think that because they pay their bills, go to a house of worship on occasion, throw a couple bucks in the Salvation Army bucket that they are good folks. I wonder about their self perception and their ability to rationalize that they would treat so many of their fellow citizens so shabbily and still think of themselves as good Americans. We’re all flawed, we all are fated to screw-up once in a while, but this has elements of coldness and maliciousness that is in every way criminal. There are people in prison as I write this that are serving terms for petty thief or possessing a few ounces of marijuana while these unarmed robbers rip off taxpayers for millions. These corporations might be under the delsuion that its governemnt money. You know money that they make up in that there Washington D.C. Only it’s not its their neighbor’s money and your money. Maybe it is time for a revival, a revival of values of taking pride in work and respecting our fellow Americans rather then getting what you can while the gett’ns good.