Corporate Globalization Resistance
NOFTA (The New Orleans Free Trade "Agreement"): Neoliberalism in Katrina's Aftermath
by The Wiseman
Similar to the aftermath of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the actions of U.S. based multinational corporations display an eagerness to paint their “culture” and “influence” onto the blank slate the victimized areas had become. A new set of proposals offered by the GOP after the first week of the Katrina tragedy showed who the real looters were and that they were almost quicker to jump at the opportunity of pillage as they were to provide "aid". The free-market opportunists are currently exploiting the tragedy to impose their neoliberal agenda on the infrastructure rebuilding in New Orleans.
Overriding the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, Bush has permitted building contractors to pay below minimum wage to workers, ultimately exploiting those who take part in the reconstruction of “their communities”.(CNN) The urban redevelopment will be structured around attracting tourism and corporate investment; a form of pre-emptive gentrification in actuality. To simplify the actions taken by the GOP, it is to turn New Orleans into a hot-bed for profits at the expense of thousands of its former poor and African-American citizens who are to be relocated or left homeless.
Halliburton, consistently profiteering off of death and destruction, has taken the lead in the reconstruction, receiving some of the first contracts in almost Iraq plunder form. (MSNBC) Disaster capitalism, as called by Naomi Klein, is the corporate profiteering off of nations affected by natural disasters to engage in radical social and economic engineering. Privatization and land grabs are carried out by foreign investors and billions of dollars in contracts are given to reconstruction companies that proceed to build structures and a a “westernized” corporate version of what was once there. The nations of the destroyed areas are usually so desperate for aid that they incur large debts and agree to policy reforms that include privatization of public entities, laxer regulation of foreign based multinational corporations, cutting public-sector jobs, etc. This is neoliberalism capitalizing off of natural disasters and can be recently witnessed in the tsunami’s aftermath in Southeast Asia, domestically in New Orleans, and in manmade disasters such as the Iraq War. (The Nation)
In response to the $200 billion of federal spending estimated for reconstruction, plans to cut the budget in subsidies for programs that benefit the poor, working class are already under way as the GOP plans to slash the budget in areas such as Medicare drug benefits for senior citizens rather than military spending or tax cuts for the rich (SPTimes). As below minimum wage pay and gentrification become the fate of the impoverished in New Orleans, the largest corporations are in turn to be provided with subsidies paid for by taxpayers, tax reductions, and extremely decreased regulation that virtually eliminate all accountability on environmental treatment, working conditions, and overall conduct. (Nader) This sort of fundamental “free-marketism” is almost certain to generate sweat-shops and exploitation that draws near to “Third World” conditions in the newly “liberalized” New Orleans which is corporate-protectionist in actuality.
What is displayed in the media as “hurricane relief” is actually corporate welfare that is to be paid through your taxes as programs that benefit the general public get cut to keep from slipping into budget deficit. So in reality those who were victimized by the hurricane are once again being victimized by what is ironically called “relief”. The only thing it is relief from is corporate accountability and taxes which the reduction of is paid for directly by you.
As is already widely known, “money buys altitude” in New Orleans, meaning those most affected by the storm were largely poor and black and resided in the lower sections of the city that were completely destroyed as the higher, whiter sections remained untouched. Thus most have nothing to return to, and those that do will not be able to return even if permitted because there is no budget for transportation to make it back from the shelters these citizens ended up in. Regarding those able to return though, they could be provided with housing immediately due to the heavy vacancy of habitable homes in the unscathed, white sections that adds up to 11,617 vanancies and increases to 23,267 when including neighboring Jefferson Parish to the west of the city. (The Nation The Nation2)
Before the second evacuation for Hurricane Rita, Mayor Ray Nagin had announced that some 182,000 residents were permitted to return in the following zip codes: 70131, 70114, 70118, 70115, 70130, 70113, 70112 and 70116. (CNN) What resulted in the temporary repopulation was those who returned were overwhelmingly white in majority contrary to the previous residents. The restructuring of New Orleans will simultaneously be the destruction of its cultural aspects and the building of a cold, mechanical corporate culture in its place. An ethnocide is getting ready to take place in which the vibrant history, majority people, and culture of the city will be replaced with a cultureless, industrial tourist attraction. Small business will all but disappear as McDonalds replaces your local neighborhood Cajun restaurant, Wal-Mart replaces the local goods store, and plush condos replace low-income housing. Reconstruction has time and time again shown to be nothing but a front for the transfer of resources from the public to the private sector, where a small few control the majority of the area’s resources. Its ironic that those who were struggling to find basic needs in the days after the hurricane were labeled as looters and shot while those who are struggling to loot New Orleans for all its worth in the pursuit of higher riches are labeled as "conservative", "fiscally responsible", and are the ones who ordered the martial law.