From an eloquent op-ed piece yesterday from Nicholas Christof:
One of the most dispiriting elements of the catastrophe in New Orleans was the looting. I covered the 1995 earthquake that leveled much of Kobe, Japan, killing 5,500, and for days I searched there for any sign of criminal behavior. Finally I found a resident who had seen three men steal food. I asked him whether he was embarrassed that Japanese would engage in such thuggery.
“No, you misunderstand,” he said firmly. “These looters weren’t Japanese. They were foreigners.”
The reasons for this are complex and partly cultural, but one reason is that Japan has tried hard to stitch all Japanese together into the nation’s social fabric. In contrast, the U.S. – particularly under the Bush administration – has systematically cut people out of the social fabric by redistributing wealth from the most vulnerable Americans to the most affluent.
It’s not just that funds may have gone to Iraq rather than to the levees in New Orleans; it’s also that money went to tax cuts for the wealthiest rather than vaccinations for children.