As the single most destructive and costly meteorological disaster ever to hit U.S. soil, Hurricane Katrina has created much more than high winds, flooding and property damage.

The storm’s cultural aftermath exposed a federal government that is unwilling and/or incapable of responding to its citizens’ urgent needs.

Katrina has shown that the system under which local, state and federal agencies work is plagued with inefficiencies. The government’s lack of an adequate or timely response to Hurricane Katrina adds to a long list of domestic and international failures that have become commonplace during the Bush administration.

Two important aspects that must be analyzed from this catastrophe are the racial and socioeconomic problems that are omnipresent in this country. Hurricane Katrina enabled the American public to get a rare glimpse of the poverty under which 25 per cent of the African-American population is currently living.

Despite America’s status as the richest and most powerful country in the world, a great number of its citizens cannot afford bus tickets, gasoline and other resources needed to successfully evacuate from a city. This fact contributed to the unnecessary loss of life in New Orleans.

The reality is that the government and the media often turn the other cheek to the ubiquitous poverty that affects so many Americans today.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina showed the American public that evidence of this fact is easy to find. If an individual were to place an animal under the same conditions that the 25,000 survivors inside the Superdome endured, that person would be arrested immediately.

Yet, the only crime that was committed to deserve five days without food, water or medical help was to be born into poverty in a country that would rather invest its money in guns than in butter.

In fact, the only arrests that were made were the result of the chaos and disarray ensuing after the collapse of a system, which then enabled anarchy to rule the streets of New Orleans.

For a government that basks in its technological advancements and its vast riches, the American government failed to provide simple necessities that would have saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. While federal money is still pouring into investments overseas, more attention needs to be paid to domestic problems. It should not take a Category 5 hurricane to show the American people the results of a growing gap between the rich and the poor, the racial tensions that exist or the vulnerability and fragility of a flawed leadership.

Fernandez can be reached at

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