Then and Now

Friday, April 27, 2007

In 1900, the city of Galveston, Texas was nearly obliterated by a severe hurricane. Its citizens immediately started rebuilding the city and making it more hurricane-resistant.

The latter involved building a seawall and raising the land behind it. Although there was some government aid, the home owners themselves had to bear the cost of raising their houses.

Ignoring advice from its sister paper, The Dallas Morning News, that it move temporarily to Houston, The Galveston Daily News continued publishing from the island and never missed an issue. Sept. 9 and 10, 1900, were published together on a single sheet of paper. One side listed the dead. The other reported the devastation of the storm.

In the first week after the storm, according to [David G.] McComb's book, telegraph and water service were restored. Lines for a new telephone system were being laid by the second.

"In the third week, Houston relief groups went home, the saloons reopened, the electric trolleys began operating and freight began moving through the harbor," McComb wrote.

Residents of Galveston quickly decided that they would rebuild, that the city would survive, and almost as soon, leaders began deciding how it would do so.


The oldest part of the seawall still visible runs from Sixth street to 39th street and was built between 1902 and 1904, he said. [bold added]
500 city blocks had been raised by as much as 11 feet within a decade.

By contrast, residents of New Orleans who fled Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have just learned that they will be receiving government assistance at least through 2009 to continue living in Houston while assorted leftists complain (See PS.) about Latin American immigrants taking "their" jobs during the agonizingly slow rebuilding of New Orleans.
Housing assistance for more than 120,000 displaced families, which was scheduled to end Aug. 31, will continue through March 1, 2009. Starting March 1, 2008, recipients will be required to make monthly payments starting at $50 and increasing to $600 by the time the assistance ends.

On Sept. 1, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will take over the program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has helped families with rent, utility payments, mobile homes and travel trailers since the two hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.
A century later, despite the fact that our vastly higher general level of prosperity and numerous technological advances could make the rebuilding and fortification of New Orleans against future storms easier in some respects than that of Galveston, the recovery of the Crescent City moves at a snail's pace while nearly three times the entire pre-hurricane population of 1900 Galveston will remain on the dole at the time by which a more enterprising citizenry had managed to build a seawall a century earlier.

Once again, we have a glaring example of the fact that the welfare state does not bring about what most Americans know as prosperity. And yet, the man-made welfare state is accepted as an unquestionable, unalterable, metaphysical fact. Why? Because no one will ask why it is that they are asked to help their fellow man above and beyond imminent peril, and into perpetuity. Because of the widespread ethics of altruism, which provides the welfare state with its moral justification.

Such is the power of the philosophical ideas that motivate the members of a society: In one century, Americans on a sandbar raised their own homes and built a seawall to fend off a major hurricane; by the next, the citizens of a once-great city fled it, never to return or help in its reconstruction, to live in perpetual lassitude as parasites on a nation of suckers who could not raise more than a feeble objection to the fact that it was being taken advantage of.

-- CAV

PS: From the leftist site linked above, I reproduce this amazing piece of evasion, in part because it is not on its own web page and I want to make sure it exists somewhere for future reference:
By some estimates, close to 100,000 new migrant workers -- Latino, African-American, Asian, Native-American, and Anglo workers either recruited to the reconstruction zones or searching on their own for better economic opportunities -- have arrived in the Gulf Coast region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Tens of thousands have come to rebuild New Orleans. Instead of being validated and rewarded [Money, you see, is an "entitlement" to some people, and doesn't count. --ed] for their role in this city's renewal, they find themselves locked into states of marginalization and transience. Across the city, workers are living in abandoned cars, working in toxic conditions, chasing after a web of subcontractors for their wages, and running from police and immigration authorities who have intensified their enforcement efforts while labor law enforcement is lax.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of former New Orleans residents -- many of whom lived paycheck to paycheck on hospitality industry poverty wages before Katrina -- face tremendous barriers to finding meaningful employment. [Like what? Greyhound? Amtrak? The Interstate Highway system? Southwest Airlines? --ed] Survivors of the hurricane attempting to return home find they have no housing, no schools for their children, no public infrastructure to support them. They are, consequently, locked out of the burgeoning labor market in their own hometown.
And those poor, brave souls in Galveston at the turn of the last century had it any better?

Such cluelessness of the left, while sometimes only apparent, and as a result of deliberate context-dropping, is also sometimes a symptom of the prevalence of the lack of the normal connection between work and reward made possible by the welfare state.


Mike said...

As usual, your commentary has made my (internet-reading) day. :)

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, sir!

Galileo Blogs said...

I've seen the seawall at Galveston that has kept that town dry all these years. When you think about it, what Galveston overcame relative to their size and the times dwarfs what New Orleans needs to overcome.

Galveston is a much smaller town than New Orleans, with much less wealth at its disposal to build a seawall. This is true because our economy was less rich when Galveston was flooded, but also because New Orleans simply is a much larger and wealthier city.

Also, in some ways Galveston appears (I say this as a non-expert in the area of flood control) more vulnerable than New Orleans. It is on a sandbar, as you say, thrust into the Gulf of Mexico. New Orleans, on the other hand, while quite vulnerable, does have a large naturally dry area, the French Quarter.

In any case, Galveston vs. New Orleans shows what a difference time makes in people's attitudes towards self-reliance. New Orleans bewails the fact that "others" won't help them, in particular the federal government. For example, the city still insists that the same federal agency that failed so miserably in building the first levees, the Army Corps of Engineers, rebuild the levees this time. Why doesn't New Orleans build its own levees? Undoubtedly, it could afford it.

Tinier Galveston did it, and with much less wealth and much less sophisticated technology at its disposal.

Great example!

Gus Van Horn said...

It's even worse once you scratch the surface. The corruption permeates all strata in Louisiana.

For example, Ron Pisaturo and conservative commentator Robert Tracinski wrote about the New Orleans underclass shortly after the storm, which I blogged here and elsewhere.

For another example, Deroy Murdock wrote awhile back about the possible role of political corruption in building defective levees in New Orleans:

"Beyond the Lower Ninth Ward, stands the London Avenue Canal. Dusk finds breaches in the floodwall that let water drown the Crescent City. These deadly breaks have been sealed temporarily with gravel. Researchers have discovered that floodwalls like this one only extend 10 feet into the ground, as opposed to 26, as the Army Corps of Engineers recommended. [bold added] Louisiana's attorney general and the FBI are investigating whether this shortfall involved cost-cutting, shoddy workmanship, or deliberate fraud. The latter would have planted the seeds for the negligent homicide of many of the 1,076 Louisianans killed in Katrina's wake. The death penalty would befit such perpetrators."

In addition to this, I have heard rumors through people I know there that the various levee inspections were basically paid vacations for the people responsible for insuring that the levees were up to standards.

As you have said before. We have our work cut out for us.

To which I'll add: This is no windmill, and I'm not Don Quixote!

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

Outstanding! Thank you for your time and energy. A good read. --Rick

Gus Van Horn said...

You're quite welcome, Rick!