Disaster Capitalism and Gentrification

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose will forever change the trajectory of Houston, Key West, and other coastal towns. Disaster paves the way for radical capitalist economic policy, from development to war to charter schools. Don’t you know what happened in New Orleans after Katrina?

As you think about the cost of recovery, policy implementation, and government subsidies, remember that the Department of Defense 2017 budget is $582.7 BILLION. That is $582,700,000,000. Houston’s $50 billion recovery effort is 8% of the DoD’s 2017 budget. 

There is no such thing as a “natural” disaster, because who’s in harm’s way, and the kind of harm they face, is a product of human choices. – Andy Horowitz

Here are a few articles + highlights to get you up to speed

Bleakonomics, New York Times – book review of “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein.

  • 100,000 less black people live in New Orleans in 2015 than in 2000
  • most of the city’s public schools have been replaced by privately run charter schools

 

Katrina’s Silver Lining by David Brooks – a primer on how NOT to think after major disasters. This is a dog whistle for the “ambitious and organized” to remove anyone who can’t “culturally integrate”… what Brooks fails to discuss is the underlying systems that created racial inequality in the first place and allowed Katrina to wreck so much destruction on impoverished neighborhoods–racism and the new jim crow.

 

How to Stop Gentrification by Colin Kinniburgh – a look at disaster, the citizens, the developers, and the government’s role in gentrification across the US

  • New Orleans has “become the second-least affordable city to live in nationwide”
  • “In 1976 alone, the city of New York shut down thirty-four fire stations in poor, largely black and Latino neighborhoods; by the end of the decade, seven Bronx census tracts had lost virtually all of their buildings, and another forty-four tracts had lost more than half.”
  • “Economic isolation and the fraying of the social safety net contributed to record levels of crime in inner cities, with public housing complexes hit particularly hard. Policy elites’ response was to blame the buildings themselves….”
  • “black wealth was decimated in the 2008 housing market crash…In 2007, the average black family had a net worth of one-tenth the average white-family’s; by 2011, that number had dropped to one-sixteenth”
  • and keep learning…”it is important not to lose sight of the ways that personal attitudes and actions daily aggravate the crisis of gentrification”

 

Get Ready for Trump’s Diaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein – how the government, Trump, and contractors can exploit diaster for personal and political gain

  • after Katrina, Pence (as chairman of Republican Study Committee) suspended wage labor laws, regulation, and zoning, and made “the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”, repealed environmental regulations, and gave permission for new oil refineries (duh, global warming) –> will be used by Trump to court the labor movement
  • top contractors from Iraq were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just 10 days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.
  • Emergency workers and local volunteer morticians were forbidden to help clear bodies because it impinged on a contractor’s “commercial territory” –> bodies rotted in the streets for days
  • a religious group was paid $5.2 million to build an emergency worker base camp, which was never built – the group had only organized religious youth camps

 

North Carolina denied 99 percent of federal recovery funds for Hurricane Matthew by Michael Rios – here’s what happens when everything is destroyed but you’re not a big “brand” like New Orleans or Houston.

  • in 2016, Hurricane Matthew ripped through Eastern North Carolina, leaving the state with $1.5 billion in damage and 80,000 households to register for FEMA. FEMA is only allocating $100 million.

 

The Transformative Vision of Community Land Trusts by Aaron Tanak – we need to rethink the concept of land

  • we should recognize that land is not just the square feet that we live on but the source of the natural resources that we depend on
  • land in a CLT is owned by the nonprofit and leased to home and building owners at an affordable price.

 

2 ways to fight gentrification by Adam Hengels – the forces behind gentrification aren’t what we think they are

  • The mechanism of gentrification is not development. It is zoning.
  • The battlefield is in the more wealthy neighborhoods where empowered residents fight to keep new people out.
  • The enemy is the rich people who use their influence to thwart development in their neighborhoods.
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