New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut are in a crisis after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy which left costal areas devastated from having been pounded by high winds and overflowing seas.
Whole communities are still waterlogged. Thousands have lost their homes, their cars and all of all their personal possessions.
In one day tens of thousands of mainly working families have lost almost everything they own.
They are heatless, homeless, without power, food and water. If living on one of the islands off of Long Island, New Jersey, or New York City a family has gone from homeownership with all that implies to homelessness and seemingly
no way out.
President Obama has come to the rescue and promised the full resources of the federal government, FEMA and has deployed the National Guard to help people survive.
Over 70 people have perished so far and unknown numbers are still trapped in their destroyed homes some probably clinging to life.
On television dozens of people are overwhelmed with emotion; crying out in anguish and demanding immediate help. Temperatures are dropping into the 40’s and even 30’s in the Northeast this time of year and huge numbers of people have no heat.
There is a severe mass communication and transportation crisis. Millions of people without electricty also can’t power up their cell phones. Only a few lines are functioning in the massive New York subway system, many lower Manhattan stations are still flooded and they can’t cut the power on.
The buses are free but overcrowded and the streets are gridlocked. The Long Island railroad and the commuter trains from New Jersey and the northern suburbs are mostly shut down.
People can’t get to work assuming their job has power. People are asking, “How long is this going to go on?” The city, state and federal officials don’t have clear answers to that question.
The president has promised to cut the red tape and expedite the issuing of supplies and checks to assist rebuilding.
But those in dire straits don’t have days: They need food, generators, heat and pumps to drain millions of gallons of flood waters and thousands of tons of debris which represent a public health danger on the highest order.
Even Chris Christy, the Republican governor of N.J. has given high praise to President Obama, to the consternation of leaders of his own party. So has Mayor Bloomberg of New York, an independent, who endorsed the president saying it was because Obama understands climate change and Romney does not. Bloomberg made no endorsement in 2008.
It has been estimated that Sandy’s cost to the U.S. economy will be in the billions.
The cost for New York City alone has been estimated at $200 million a day.
Over 4 million people are without power, 2 million in New Jersey alone.
The tragic consequences of Hurricane Sandy takes place on top of the already devastating effects of mass unemployment, poverty, homelessness and hunger magnified by the effects of the Great Recession.
There are 848,000 unemployment, in N.Y. state. Over 440,000 in Pennsylvania and 530,000 in Maryland suffer the same fate. In Connecticut some 414,000 are jobless.
Delaware boasts 30,000 and 174,000 are without work in West Virginia which was devastated by several feet of snow caused by Sandy.
Put these numbers together and there are almost 5 million potential emergency workers to help the hurricane victims. That is an unlimited supply of human labor power that could play a big role in meeting the crisis.
State and federal government must be called on to hire the unemployed to become emergency relief workers to help save lives, deliver food, water, generators and supplies and help transport people to safe shelter.
They can assist in many aspects of relief work and most of all they can speed up the recovery of so many communities.
And giving the unemployed jobs at living wage with benefits will also help the overall economy.
Sandy by any measurement was a tragedy in human terms but it also exposed the tragedy inherent in the Republican proposal to cut funds to FEMA and their unrelenting attacks on the role of government to say nothing of their stubborn denial of the existence of global warming.
The problems caused by global warming are not going away and like thousands of other social, economic, and human problem facing our nation they cannot be solved by the private sector.
Issues like poverty, health care, housing, nutrition, education and the environment can only be really solved by putting people before profits.
The Obama administration’s position on these issues, while not going far enough, do open the door to real solutions.
Hopefully it will spur on supporters and increase votes in the big election next Tuesday. All democratic progressive forces have a huge stakes in the outcome.