The most excellent Tim Wise breaks down the venality of comparisons between flood-ravaged Iowans and hurricane-devasted New Orleanians.
So consider Limbaugh's formulation, where he says, "I don't see a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters, I don't see a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don't see a bunch of people raping people on the street."
Fair enough. Those things aren't happening in Iowa. Yet, according to multiple post-Katrina investigations, and stories written up by the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, the New Orleans Times Picayune, the London Guardian, the New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Reason Magazine and the American Journalism Review, reports of shooting at helicopters or rapes or murders were almost entirely false. There were, in fact, no murders in the evacuation centers, few if any sexual assaults, no helicopters fired on, and no police officers shot by residents. Yes, there was looting, although by a distinct minority of persons trapped in the city, and overwhelmingly for necessities like food, medicine, water, and clothing to replace the rotting, soaked rags people were wearing after wading through waist-deep water. And according to persons on the ground in the flood zone, even the luxury items taken were typically used as barter chips, to get rides out of the city for oneself and one's family when it became obvious that large scale assistance wasn't going to arrive any time soon. In other words, reports of widespread thuggery in New Orleans during the flooding have been greatly exaggerated, if not entirely fabricated, and have only remained believable to millions because of the race and class biases which allow people to believe the worst about poor black folks even without a shred of actual evidence.
Then of course have been the suggestions, especially common in the e-blasts and blog postings to the effect that Iowans, unlike New Orleanians, have helped themselves, because while the latter had grown dependent on government to solve their problems, Midwesterners in the "heart of America" still value the importance of self-reliance. But the fact is, Iowans are no less likely to receive government assistance than those in New Orleans were prior to Hurricane Katrina, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Surveys, taken in 2006 (the most recent year available) and 2004 (the last data collected for New Orleans before the flooding of that city).
In hard-hit Linn County, Iowa, 2400 households receive cash public assistance, out of 85,000 total households, meaning that 2.8 percent of all households in the County receive cash welfare. In New Orleans, prior to Katrina, and contrary to popular belief, only 2.6 percent of households received cash welfare (4600 households out of 180,000). So in truth, a slightly higher percentage of Linn Countians were on the dole than New Orleanians! In Black Hawk County (also hard hit by the recent deluge), 2.5 percent of all households receive cash assistance: again, suggesting no real difference between the mostly white and rural folks there, and the mostly black and urban folks in Orleans Parish at the time of Katrina.