Super Bowl XLVII is receiving a massive amount of military-grade support that will likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars as it has in years past. Some of it will likely be frivolously wasted such as when the Navy spent $450,000 taxpayer dollars for a flyover during Super Bowl XLV when the stadium roof was closed (as if that was even the main issue). Meanwhile, some victims of Hurricane Katrina continue to suffer more than 7 years later.
The Superdome has indeed been rebuilt to showcase overpaid athletes and entertainers, while the surrounding area has thrived according to mainstream news reports citing re-opened schools, new levees and a “thriving restaurant scene.” Small comfort for those displaced and never able to return.
It is also small comfort to those victimized by FEMA which in 2011 asked for thousands of people to return aid money after FEMA apparently mismanaged payouts. Huffington post highlighted Paul Wegener’s outrageous case:
Paul Wegener, whose New Orleans home flooded up to the gutters after Katrina, felt short-changed when FEMA gave him a $30,000 grant for a house that wound up costing more than $566,000 to rebuild. He applied for more through the state’s Road Home program but was told he didn’t qualify. The thought of having to return some of his federal aid only compounds his frustration.
‘They’ll have to pry it from my dead hands if they try,’ the 75-year-old said.
Or 28-year-old Luisa Meija who was had to escape a New Orleans suburb with her family:
‘We left with nothing but important papers and maybe two sets of clothes,’ she recalls. ‘We were in Atlanta with no money, living in a home with 40 people.’
All they got from FEMA was a check for $1,200, which they used to buy clothes and food. Six years later, Mejia can’t understand why FEMA would ask residents to pay for its employees’ mistakes.
‘I didn’t get the type of money that would make me rich from Katrina,’ she said. ‘For people who were honest like me, it’s crazy.’ (Source)
And these are just a couple of stories among thousands similarly harassed. In addition to the financial burden, Science Daily has reported that people are still affected by the mental and physical trauma of the disaster. Researchers highlight that very few studies have ever tracked the long-lasting effects of disaster recovery. This long excerpt, while admittedly a limited study compared to the overall number affected, really encapsulates the scope of those who remain largely forgotten:
The sample size in the study was made up of 532 low-income mothers, most of whom were African American and whose average age was 26. They were interviewed in two follow-up surveys — tracked down largely through their unchanged cellphone numbers, though they were spread across 23 states — about 11 months and nearly five years after the storm.
Due to the makeup of the sample, Paxson cautioned that the study’s results cannot be assumed to apply to the population as a whole, but they shed light on natural disasters’ effects on a particularly vulnerable group.
The surveys helped rate the women on two signs of poor mental health: psychological distress and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Researchers measured psychological distress using a series of questions (also in the initial questionnaire) typically used to screen for anxiety and mood disorders, asking about feelings such as sadness, hopelessness and nervousness experienced over the last 30 days. They measured PTSS using a test used to identify individuals at a high risk of meeting the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder; for example, the women in the study were asked how often they thought about the hurricane in the last seven days and whether they had thoughts about the storm that they could not suppress.
The researchers found that even after four years, about 33 percent of the participants still had PTSS, and 30 percent had psychological distress. Though levels for both conditions had declined from the first follow-up 11 months after the hurricane, they were not back to pre-hurricane levels.
The researchers had also interviewed the study participants about the types of stressors they had experienced during the storm: home damage, traumatic experiences the week of the hurricane (such as being in danger or lacking food, water or necessary medical care), or death of a friend or relative.
Paxson and her collaborators found that these stressors played a role in whether the participants suffered from psychological distress or PTSS, or both. For the most part, the hurricane stressors, especially home damage, were associated with the risk of chronic, long-term PTSS alone or in combination with psychological distress.
‘I think Katrina might be different from a lot of natural disasters in the sense that it completely upended most people’s lives,’ Paxson said. ‘About two-thirds of the sample is back in the New Orleans area, but almost nobody lives in their old home. So they’re living in new communities. They’ve been disrupted from their friends and their families. The whole fabric of their lives has really been changed.’ (Source: Social Science and Medicine via Science Daily)
It appears that, yet again, plenty of federal money is available when the military-industrial complex seeks to enrich its bottom line through fear-mongering about an exceedingly unlikely future terrorist event, but support of those people already experiencing a state of emergency are viewed as nothing more than a costly handout.
As mainstream media and corporate interests turn up the hype machine for the 47th Super Bowl as a boon to the New Orleans economy, let’s not forget the federal failures that still continue there and in other locations, as Katrina was not an exception to an otherwise stellar performance by government; thousands are still without heat, water, and power more than 90 days after Hurricane Sandy. There will be no Super Bowl in those homes, even if they could stomach the spectacle.
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