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September 16, 2005
Will Only Saints Come Marching Back?

George Bush's uplifting speech, designed to inspire the confidence of the people most affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, may have less effect than he hopes. He delivered it well and introduced intelligent plans for renewal, but half of the New Orleans evacuees appear to have decided not to go back regardless of the circumstances, according to the Washington Post:

Fewer than half of all New Orleans evacuees living in emergency shelters here said they will move back home, while two-thirds of those who want to relocate planned to settle permanently in the Houston area, according to a survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The wide-ranging poll found that these survivors of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath remain physically and emotionally battered but unbroken. They praised God and the U.S. Coast Guard for saving them, but two weeks after the storm, nearly half still sought word about missing loved ones or close friends who may not have been as lucky. ...

Forty-three percent of these evacuees planned to return to New Orleans, the survey found. But just as many -- 44 percent -- said they will settle somewhere else, while the remainder were unsure. Many of those who were planning to return said they will be looking to buy or rent somewhere other than where they lived. Overall, only one in four said they plan to move back into their old homes, the poll found.

The polling sample consisted of 680 adults from eight different shelters, out of an estimated 8,000 currently awaiting more substantial living arrangements. That sample looks pretty solid, and statistically speaking, it results in only a 4% margin of error. It also gives a pretty good look at the demographics of those who fled into shelters, as opposed to family members or into their own temporary housing arrangements. Sixty percent earned less than $20K, 12% had no job when Katrina hit, 70% had no insurance for their property, half had no health insurance, and almost half have a significant health problem unrelated to the evacuation.

What does that tell us? It tells us that the poor in New Orleans have little stake in returning to their city. Given that the Big Easy had one of the higher poverty rates in the nation, that will result in the largest migration of the poor out of an area since the Dust Bowl sent refugees to the West Coast in the 1930s. Most of them will stay in Houston and the state of Texas, but some will strike out farther in an attempt to rebuild their lives.

That migration will complicate matters for the rebuilding of the city as well as the politics of the region. Congress expects to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the Katrina disaster area, and it hopes to earn some bona fides for its commitment to the poor as a result. Bush wants to show how we can build an ownership society to lift them up. If the poor don't return to New Orleans, neither will get exactly what they want from their efforts, and American voters may soon question the expenditure of federal dollars for the rebuilding efforts of individual states.

Politically, an exodus of the poor will change the face of Louisiana. Like most urban areas, New Orleans provides Democrats with their power base, and the poor comprise a major portion of that voting bloc. Thanks to a poor initial response from state and local officials -- all Democrats -- to Katrina, they already will find themselves on the defensive in the next statewide elections. If their allies do not return to New Orleans, they may lose the state to the GOP. Expect that possibility to fuel the Farrakhanish rumors that the Republicans bombed the levees on purpose to gentrify New Orleans, and the Democrats to continue their descent into Howard Dean nuttiness.

Bush talked about the triumphant second line of funeral marches in New Orleans for those jazz musicians which have passed away. When the time comes for that shift, the New Orleans Saints may well be the only ones enthusiastically marching back in behind the band when the bells begin to chime.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 16, 2005 5:20 AM

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» I Want To Be In That Number...? from Publius Rendezvous
The Captain's Quarter's in "Will Only Saints Come Marching Back?" is reporting on a very interesting poll generated from the evacuees out of New Orleans who are pondering whether to return 'home.' It seems as if they are reluctant to return to the Cr... [Read More]

Tracked on September 16, 2005 8:54 AM

» On the kindness of strangers: the aftermath of Katrina from neo-neocon
...Blanche Du Bois, abused and driven to madness, utters her famous line "I've come to rely on the kindness of strangers" as she is taken away to an insane asylum. The line is powerfully ironic in the play, but in post-Katrina reality it is delivered s... [Read More]

Tracked on September 16, 2005 2:36 PM

» Houston's nice this time of year. from The Bad Hedgehog
Hello, I must be staying... Over half of the refugees are saying they will not return to New Orleans. From Captain's Quarters. George Bush's uplifting speech, designed to inspire the confidence of the people most affected by the devastation of [Read More]

Tracked on September 16, 2005 6:37 PM

» Mayor Nagin's Lost His Noggin' from Reaganites Unite!
The saga of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's goofy thought process/command decisions continues today. As you may know, this is the man that ordered a voluntary evacuation of the city prior to the hurricane and then 12 hours later turned it into a toothl... [Read More]

Tracked on September 18, 2005 3:25 PM

» Ethnic Self-Cleansing? from Hard Starboard
Rush Limbaugh made reference to a Naomi Klein piece in the left-wing rag The Nation today that jogged my memory about something I read about ten days ago. Klein, is trademark Marxian fashion, accuses New Orleans' "white elites" (or Louisiana's or ... [Read More]

Tracked on September 26, 2005 8:17 PM

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