The Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas, who was on IWF’s panel on Hurricane Katrina and the roots of poverty, has what I think is the best anniversary piece yet on New Orleans’ failure to thrive in the wake of Katrina:
“What individual New Orleanians can’t do by themselves is fix the city’s long-broken attitude toward criminal justice. Over and over again during my February trip to New Orleans, I heard how demoralized residents feel when they buy and install new appliances, pipes, and furniture for their flooded-out houses, leave for a day or two, often to temporary homes-and return to find their hard-earned new handiwork ripped out and stolen.
“For generations now-and this is the city’s deepest problem-New Orleans has hobbled along without a real law-and-order presence. Criminals graduate from petty crimes to burglary to drug-dealing to carrying illegal weapons to gang robberies to murder, and face few consequences at any stage. The police, and especially the prosecutors, are ineffectual. Since Katrina, things have gotten much worse, in part because criminals, finding life difficult in cities that enforce the law, have returned to the Big Easy in numbers disproportionate to those of law-abiding citizens. Mayor Ray Nagin doesn’t try to fix things, perhaps because, as he often says, he believes crime is a social problem, rooted in a lack of opportunity for poor youth.
“The Bush administration has deployed extra federal law-enforcement agents to try to get the worst criminals off the street. The state of Louisiana, meanwhile, has sent the National Guard to patrol half-empty neighborhoods. But just as the U.S. military can only do so much in Iraq when Baghdad’s local government is ineffective, the federal government can’t do much in New Orleans until the city’s local government changes its attitude and behavior. Residents have no reason to think that criminal behavior has predictable negative consequences, because Nagin and New Orleans district attorney Eddie Jordan have failed to make clear that people who commit crimes in New Orleans will be prosecuted.
“But President Bush can use federal dollars to try to convince them to do it. …”