CHAPTER ONERisk Shifting, from Coolidge to Katrina

ON AUGUST 29, 2005, the powerful hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans. An estimated one million people were evacuated from the area, though many of the poor, old, and ill were unable to leave and seek higher ground. Moreover, those left behind were overwhelmingly African American. The nation watched in horror as death and destruction flashed across our TV screens. We were inured to seeing such events unfold in third-world countries. How could they possibly occur in a major American city?

Equally unbelievable, the government response at all levels was late, insufficient, and widely considered by all sides to have been lethally bungled. President Bush, ...

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