Happy Anniversary, Katrina Victims! You Could Celebrate With Cash if You Weren’t So Unscrupulous

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Today Reason magazine ran the exploration of its first “Myth of Hurricane Katrina,” an article refuting that there’s not enough money to deal with the disaster’s aftermath. There’s plenty of money, it explains. The problem is the systems in place for doling it out. To wit:

So it’s not a lack of funding that’s the problem. It’s spending the money. Under existing laws, FEMA can’t simply write checks to Katrina victims. Some recipients would undoubtedly squander their funds, and there would be widespread fraud. This isn’t idle speculation. According to the Government Accountability Office, immediately after Katrina hit, about a billion dollars of emergency aid—16 percent of the total—was lost to fraudulent claims. Even legitimately obtained pre-paid debit cards given to aid Katrina’s victims were used to buy champagne, guns, tattoos, and porn.

FEMA, or somebody—anybody—should indeed be able to simply (that’s the best way, isn’t it?) write checks to Katrina victims. I left New Orleans two days before the storm with a pair of flip-flops, a deck of cards, and an extra pair of underwear, and couldn’t go back until four months later. Like a million others, I desperately needed money for food and clothes and toiletries. Despite hours of sobbing and begging on the phone with FEMA and dozens of paperwork filings and faxes, I still somehow never managed to “legitimately obtain” my debit card. If I had gotten it, I very well may have spent a large portion of that $2,000 on champagne, tattoos, and porn (I’m not really into guns), and I would have had every right to do so. It’s none of the government’s business what indescribably distressed adults who’ve been suddenly and forcibly displaced with no job, no place to live, and no reliable information about the state of everything they own or their foreseeable future choose to do with the aid money given them. The government’s business is to make sure they get it.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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