By Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch
Last month, President Joe “No Comment on Hawaii” Biden’s Twitter boosters hurried to claim that the measly $700 he initially boasted of for Maui fire victims was but the first installment of more generous help to come. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and even with Biden’s added ingredients, the pudding’s comparatively pretty thin and watery. On August 30, Biden pledged $95 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to aid Mauli’s rebuilding. It remains to see how far that goes – thousands of homes burnt to the ground. With an average home price in the most affected area, Lahaina, coming in at a cool million dollars, Biden’s promised bonanza, made after his disastrous hegira to Hawaii, may not stretch far.
Meanwhile, the Biden bunch showers billions on the most corrupt government in Europe and possibly in the world, namely Ukraine, whose American-gifted weapons flame into action all over the Middle East and in the hands of Mexican drug cartels (whose dangers are small potatoes compared to this past week’s massive, reckless and wildly provocative clinker of NATO wargames in the Black Sea), but when it comes to actual needy Americans – well, they aren’t worth as much as Washington’s imperial clients. Americans get next to nothing from their government, compared to citizens of any other developed country. And don’t try to say, “oh, but Social Security,” because we paid for that. It ain’t a gift.
It’s not as if fire victims in Hawaii are the last of a one-time freak disaster. There will be many more. Fire is in our future. That’s because the climate catastrophe is here and Joe “Drill Baby, Drill” Biden, like his predecessor Donald “Let the World Burn” Trump is doing zilch, nada, zip about it. We need a humongous government fund for future climate change victims and a pool of monies to fill the drying riverbed of homeowner’s insurance, a business whose ceos know very well what climate change means and increasingly won’t cover houses for weather disasters. We do NOT need billions for Kiev kleptocrats. We do not need trillions for that ravenous monster python called the military industrial complex, busy devouring the last bloody scraps of the heart of the American economy. Washington should begin planning – yesterday.
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Planning, you ask – Washington? Ho, ho. They don’t do that in the imperial capital. Besides for what? Well, let me tell you. For the mega-miles swaths of California and the Northwest that runaway omnicidal capitalism has consigned to future flames; for the hundreds of thousands of Southwest residents who – like those in Phoenix last summer, dead from burns sustained by walking, falling or lying on 146-degree sidewalks – will be afflicted by extreme heat; for the future freak flood victims from Tennessee to New York; for the luckless denizens of Hurricane Alley, whose lives will be upended by many more and more powerful cyclones partly caused by ocean temperatures of 100 degrees or more.
That’s where our money should go. Not a trillion dollars for a nuclear weapons upgrade. Not billions for the Exceptional Empire’s Ukraine proxy war. But instead of making life survivable for Americans in a climate-compromised future – a future that’s pretty much knocking on our door – Biden fiddles while whole states burn. The white house can barely be bothered with that, or indeed anything other than pomp and circumstance on the international stage. It’s sickening. Biden’s first reaction to news of the Maui catastrophe was to shrug it off while lounging for a weekend at his Rehobeth beach house. He did later declare a federal disaster in Hawaii, and maybe it was those federal funds that his idiot admirers pointed to when rushing to claim fire victims would get far more than $700. But those federal monies mainly come as loans or temporary housing. True, much of the $95 million will go toward putting electrical wires underground, to prevent future fires, but this should be done in many more places than just Maui, which would cost lots more than $95 million. But even if the Biden administration took the huge climate plunge and shelled out for burying wires everywhere they could cause fires, that would save millions, maybe billions of dollars, maybe more, from future climate-caused infernos. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As with the toxic train derailment victims in East Palestine Ohio months ago, Biden somehow can’t avoid the appearance of looking down his nose at the people burnt out of their Hawaii homes. They’re not part of the Washington neo-con in-crowd or the international political jet set. They don’t stride across the global stage, or in Biden’s case, wander away from the microphone. And so, when calamity strikes, they get $700, until the president realizes that this won’t fly with the voters, then coughs up $95 million, while Kiev gets F-16s, on top of tanks, long range missiles and every other weapon you can think of, short of nukes, including cluster bombs, which put the U.S. in war-crime territory – again. And if you average out American funds gifted to Ukrainians, they receive $3000 apiece. So hey, I have an idea for our clueless president – $3000 up-front for each of the Maui fire victims in addition to the monies to rebuild. Then at least he can say American lives are worth as much as those in our military client states.
The Maui fire killed 115 people and 66 are still missing. The property damage is enormous. To say it again, thousands of homes burnt down. According to the Washington Post August 24, senior citizens died in disproportionately high numbers for obvious reasons – they “often do not easily walk, let alone run, drive or use a smartphone to aid their escapes.” This, the Post notes, is a pattern for disasters. “Half of those killed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 were older than 75. In Northern California’s 2018 Camp Fire…66 of 85 identified fatalities were over 65.”
The Post argues that with more climate doom on the horizon, senior citizens should be made a priority. So what do the great minds in the white house think about this? What about funding such an effort? Have they begun any such planning? Don’t even ask. The Biden gang only grudgingly noticed anything happened in Maui, no less that senior citizens require special attention. To repeat, Biden’s original response to the disaster was “no comment.”
When the president did finally condescend to visit Hawaii, his trip was a public relations fiasco. Greeted by hostile locals with signs that said “No Comment,” and others who chanted, “Go Home, Joe,” Biden quickly proved such a retreat would have been a good idea, because once he opened his mouth, out came some nonsense about a kitchen fire in Delaware, decades ago, that resulted in zero fatalities and didn’t even scorch the rest of his home.
But at least that kitchen fire actually happened. Because as we all know, Joe “I Was Arrested Trying to Meet Mandela” Biden is given to making stuff up. He may not excel at this in the truly breathtaking manner of his predecessor, but Joe “Corn Pop” Biden has been known to stretch the truth and has told his share of whoppers. So yes, the Delaware kitchen fire really did occur. However, placing it on a par with the Maui tragedy was just plain insulting. The president seemed unaware of that, or he didn’t care. Either way, Biden has lost his common touch, if he ever had it. When trouble strikes ordinary Americans, it’s all our president can do even to acknowledge it and his condolences often come too little, too late. So no, things do not look good for those of us unenthused about a possible future in a tent after floods or fire have washed our towns away. Or for those of us who have soured on our taxes covering Atacms for far-right military forces half-way across the globe instead of renewables that might have kept a roof over our heads. It’s the same old sad story in America, but lately it got worse: We proles are on our own.
Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.