One of the more shocking consequences of hurricane Katrina has been the almost immediate outbreak of lawlessness. It is fitting to forgive and empathize with those that are confronted with the dire circumstance, and who have looted stores and vacant structures for food and the immediate essentials of life; however, what is truly appalling has been the emergence of the predatory looters that have chosen to use this moment of defenselessness to prey on the weak.
Unless we act now, the next wave to swamp the Gulf region will be the surge of the robber barons, who will be much more ferocious and thorough than their predecessors.
I can think of few acts viler than willfully taking advantage of a suffering person’s vulnerabilities for the sake of enrichment. In turn, I can think of few causes more noble and few fights more valorous than standing up and confronting such vultures on humanity.
The groups of armed thugs roving Katrina’s wake will soon be confronted. That will take care of the amateurs. Now, who will protect the weak from the next wave of the professional looters?
I plea to you to begin researching this inevitable onslaught and work with whomever is required to help beat back the barbarians at the gate before we all suffer for generations from the promulgations of those who derived their wealth, power, and their perceived mandates solely by their ability to take from others.
I leave you to consider two points, which may not even be the most significant:
1) Roughly a million people have been affected by some form of catastrophic loss of possessions, most of which are likely uninsured or underinsured. A very significant percentage of these individuals will be faced with immediate loss of income, which will not be sufficiently replaced in a meaningful timeframe despite any levels of public or private assistance. This is especially true because of the fact that the cost of everything has risen dramatically in the short term.
I think that it is safe to say that MasterCard and Visa lenders will be seeing dramatic drop offs in their incoming monthly payments for many months to come. This is no problem in the robber baron business model – that is what 30% interest rates, fees, and penalties are for (“read your terms of service”).
No doubt also, many predatory “emergency loans” will be made available to drag more people in. By the time that many of those affected by Katrina will be even able to return to their cities, all forms of lenders will own a rapidly growing portfolio of debt for a substantial percentage of the Gulf Area population’s wealth and real estate.
The compound interest and fees from this debt will quickly approach or exceed the principle, and although a substantial portion of this manufactured debt load will be uncollectible, over time all of the principal will plus substantial fortunes solely derived from usery rates. Through foreclosures and coercive tactics predatory lenders could likely end up with very substantial percentages of the Gulf’s real estate and treasure. This would net them unprecedented levels of power and influence over the region for generations to come.
Protective measures need to be prepared to stem off the irresistible urge that some creditors will have to cash in on the suffering. The existing policies of credit lenders are already beyond the pale, and may need special legislative action to protect, at least, the class of individuals affected by Katrina.
2) The changes in the Federal bankruptcy laws will make it much more difficult and expensive for anyone to declare bankruptcy after October 17, 2005. Also, the protections available will be significantly reduced. This will place many of Katrina’s victims, in the eyes of the law, as just another bunch of deadbeats.
The Federal Bankruptcy code should also be re-examined in the context of the Katrina catastrophe so that insult (and more injury) is not added to the existing injury from the hurricane and the sure-to-come hoards of hungry creditors.