Secular-Right India argues that the American welfare state is in part responsible for creating such abject poverty that people found themselves marooned with no place to go, and later died in the floods that ensued after hurricane Katrina.
"75 odd years after America's Keynesian New Deal, and 25 odd after Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty Great Society programs, America still has poverty -- poverty so extreme that people don't even have resources to escape known catastrophes on the way."
I think Primary Red is doing the city of New Orleans, heck not just New Orleans, but practically any American city, a great disservice if he is implying that all of the thousands of people who were left behind in New Orleans were merely wasting away idly, while receiving monthly government welfare checks. Sure, there must have been some people who must have been on welfare, but the vast majority of those affected had jobs, just like ordinary Americans. New Orleans is a major American tourist destination. As a result, it has a huge number of people who are working at jobs that are lowest in the food chain. Cab drivers, waiters, garbage collectors, strippers, prostitutes, musicians who eke out a living playing in the multitude of black jazz bars scattered throughout the city. These are all people, indispensable threads in the broader fabric of New Orleans, who even though they are part of the free market economy that is America, suffer from abject poverty. And this poverty is not due to any poverty of spirit, which Primary Red implies they suffer from, but just the low-paying nature of their particular profession.
In addition, Primary Red claims that poverty is resolvable, through persistence, if people put their minds to it. Okay, granted, if I really want to make it in the world, if I put in extra efforts, chances are pretty good that I might succeed. However, say, if a cab driver, through diligence, hard work and education succeeds in his quest for a white collar job. What then? The world is still going to require a cab driver. So someone else steps in to fill that position. In fact, in a free market economy, as the job market fills up with more qualified applicants, it would follow that jobs that require less qualifications would pay less. And lets say every American cab driver gets himself a bachelor's degree and makes it to a higher paying job. What happens then? America relaxes her immigration policy and more Mexicans or Latin Americans or Asians enter the country to fill that need of society. However, what is to be noted is that the number of poverty stricken people does not change. Poverty just changes hands. The average wage of a cab driver is not going to go up. The number of people marooned in the New Orleanian soup bowl is not going to change. How then, would a free market economy help in this case?
Don't get me wrong here. I am not a communist, nor a socialist. Heck the last time I thought Karl Marx was on to something good was in high school biology class, when the realization that memorizing a frog's anatomy would be a necessary condition for me to get a decent job after graduation, made me wish for state controlled job allocations. I agree a free market economy is the way to go for America or India or pretty much most countries in the world. I am for reduced government regulations. But it irks me when libertarians use wishful thinking and stretch the bounds of logic when they imply that the free market economy is a cure for every ill in the world. Because that is just ideology speaking, not the facts.
On a related note, Michael Higgins has an interesting take here on the damage caused by Katrina. He says the people who live in a disaster prone area should bear a greater financial burden for protecting themselves. I agree to some extent. My only question to him is what would be the definition of a disaster prone area? For example according to this map here (via Pharyngula), the only safe disaster-free area to live in the US is West Virginia. Ok, that map's just a joke, but it illustrates the point I'm trying to make here.