We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did.
Predictably, HE'S BAAaack! >>>>>>
I was so angered by Baker's plan that I sent the following letter to the Times' editor (and the Public Editor). It feels like we're all in Wonderland or 1984. Reporters tell us that forced sale of land under duress at greatly reduced prices is "big-government" from a guy who has always been "as free-market as I (Baker) am". Why, even Barney Franks likes it! It must be fair!
Trouble is, the federal government has manipulated the situation, I believe deliberately and with much planning, such that the poor people of New Orleans can't afford to return, and they aren't being allowed to return in fact. What else can they do? They have to get on with their lives, now that they're being evicted from those government tents and motels and football stadiums. And it may be the best deal they'll get, but it's a raw deal.
This is one that the Bushies and Rep. Baker must not win.
Here's the letter:
Adam Nossiter's Jan 5 article, "A Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans," presents another sterling example of credulous, incurious reporting on this government and the society it is creating.
Here we have Louisiana Rep. Richard Baker's plan, which will "buy out homeowners at no less than 60 percent of their equity before Hurricane Katrina" and offer lenders "up to 60 percent of what they are owed." Next we learn that "(T)o finance these expenditures, the government would sell bonds and pay them off in part with the proceeds from the sale of land to developers."
To summarize: The government will pay well under 60 percent, probably more like 20 or 30 percent on average, of the real value of properties whose values were among the lowest in the country to begin with. It will turn around and sell these properties, at a loss, to developers. Presumably those developers will then do something with the land that will net them a handsome profit while excluding the poor, mostly black owners from returning to New Orleans. Those developers will be receiving property sold under duress at huge losses and further subsidized by taxpayers, a category which likely does not include the developers. Nowhere does Mr. Nossiter draw this conclusion.
This plan comes from the very same Richard Baker who was quoted, days after Hurricane Katrina (in the Washington Post of Sept 10, 2005): "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Mr. Nossiter appears to be unaware of this quote; in any case he fails to mention it. Perhaps the fact that a text search of the New York Times Online failed to turn up this quote is germane to his lack of awareness; evidently it was not "fit to print." Perhaps he was also unaware that "cleaning up public housing" has been a code phrase for removing black people and making profits on their land for at least eight decades now.
Baker's plan is nothing less than another racist attempt by this monopoly Republican government to transfer wealth to the already-wealthy at the expense of the poor, who in this case lose everything. If it is, as Mr. Nossiter represents it, the only remaining hope for federal aid to New Orleans, it is because the Bush Administration and their political cronies have manipulated the situation to this point, favoring their large political donors' interests. Mr. Nossiter is reporting on the boldest, biggest urban land grab in the history of this country and does not see it for what it is. An inquisitive reporter would check the FEC web site to see what developers contributed to Mr. Baker's and Mr. Bush's campaigns in the last election cycles.
I am appalled at the evident corruption and racism implicit in Baker's plan, and chagrined that Mr. Nossiter and his editor apparently have no inking of it.
I urge everyone to write your senators and congress critters and newspapers and whatever else to oppose this and get something real done to get people back on their feet in New Orleans.