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Affluent Investor | May 28, 2017

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Was Katrina Disaster God’s Judgement on Corruption?

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Ray Nagin, former mayor of New Orleans, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison last week.

Do you remember the debates about whether the Katrina disaster was a judgment on New Orleans? Some on the religious right blamed the carnage on a scheduled gay rights parade. The left invoked an angry Gaia and her retributive global warming.

But what if this was a judgment on something other than gays and internal combustion engines? What if it were a judgment on political corruption? Maybe it is in the very nature of reality that Providence, the normal processes and regularities of the natural world, is always testing us, testing our roads and bridges, our antibiotics and our pipelines and levees. Perhaps politically corrupt systems — like the complex, interlocking, and corrupt system by which the army core of engineers shared power with the Orleans Levee Board and its corrupt New Orleans masters — are more than just a matter of dollars and cents, but also a matter of life and death.

As the Wall Street Journal reported last week,

Ray Nagin, the former mayor who rose to national prominence leading this city during Hurricane Katrina, was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison for his participation in a $500,000 bribery and conspiracy scheme that operated during most of his time in office.

U.S. District Judge Helen G. Berrigan told a packed courtroom that Mr. Nagin, 58 years old, was guilty of “rampant, inexcusable corruption,” but ruled that he should be sentenced less than federal sentencing guidelines, which would be a minimum of more than 15 and a half years, because he was a devoted family man, had at times been a good mayor and would never hold public office again.

Mr. Nagin, his voice cracking, didn’t acknowledge guilt but told the court, “I trust God is going to work all this out.”

A federal jury in February convicted Mr. Nagin, a Democrat who was mayor from 2002 to 2010, of 20 counts including bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns following a trial in which prosecutors accused Mr. Nagin of trading city business for cash, trips and favors. Several contractors and Nagin administration officials also have been convicted or have pleaded guilty in the public-corruption scandal.

Civil engineering is not morally neutral. And every time some group of cronies diverts funds away from life-saving levees in New Orleans or girders in the World Trade Center, they are not just stealing; they are committing murder by small degrees. Maybe we need to re-think what we are asking when we ask whether this or that disaster is the judgment of God.

Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.

Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.

Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.

Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.

Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.

Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest five of their seven children.

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  • Dave the Retired Marine MSgt

    Yeah, sure! The stock market went up 130+ points today because “God” loves Capitalism. Tomorrow, if it goes down, we can assume that “God” changed his mind and will then be in favor of Socialism. If we don’t have any cataclysmic weather events during the following days, then all of the “Faithful” can assume that they should become Socialists. However, if there is another hurricane during this time, those “Faithful” will say that “Gods” will was misunderstood by those recording the event. And …. you can be sure that the politicians, of both parties, will spin the events in their favor.

  • Ouzaier David


  • Is it possible hurricanes are simply a natural phenom of planet earth ? Like earthquakes , rain and oxygen ?

    Not saying religion is bad, just saying perhaps there is more to the story than most realize ? Consider that Constantine censored the current Bible ?

  • Of course it is, so was 9/11 these are all judgments… And they are wake up calls and warnings.. so one day People will get to see the truth.. Jesus will reveal Himself soon…

  • Barto

    I find it interesting that during Katrina many people, mostly Liberals, blamed Bush for Katrina and not responding soon or well enough but it was Nagel and the then Governor of Louisiana who said they had everything under control when as we know they didn’t have a handle on this disaster when the President was offering them all the help they needed. When Bush did respond it may have been late but he was being put off by these two so-called leaders of New Orleans.

  • fedupwidit

    Great! 10 years ! Maybe he will get screwed up the arse by every inmate in the Federal penal system…putz!

  • Blaine

    Get careless when hammering in nails and your thumb or fingers will feel the judgement. Treat your friends and neighbors poorly and you will find your reputation suffers. My belief is that God well designed the world so that most “judgments” get carried out by the natural laws of physics and social interactions. The premise of this article is that states and cities where politicians funnel public money to their cronies will not have as reliable an infrastructure as would have been built using an honest merit based system. The law of gravity will show what levees were built on sand when a bad storm hits, without requiring any ill will or intervention on the part of God whose essence is love. (How long can a financial system without a foundation of trust function well?) Selfish actions often bring their own completely naturally occurring consequences in this life. And yet God has provided a means of escape from the most important final judgment through the substitutionary death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.

  • Gary_L_Thompson

    Actually the specific type of corruption Boyer focuses on here was also referenced by John M. Barry in his book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America (hey, I might add that book is a very worthwhile read, and you should try to get it in your used bookstore or through interlibrary loan if it isn’t on your local library shelf). Barry blamed this corruption and cliquish attitude of the city elites, shown by New Orleans in responding to the 1927 flood, for causing the former bright future of the once-largest city of the Confederacy to be lost in decades of decline ever since.

    I would totally agree that the grassroots and churched elements of America’s heartland pay too little attention to political corruption, particularly at the local level. New Orleans had been long warned that it was living on borrowed time in failing to keep up its storm defenses, and the fact is that the city had in fact dodged another bullet with Katrina (the media was largely silent on the real havoc and destruction occurring in the regions east of New Orleans), and New Orleans would have never flooded but for the deficient levees around Lake Charles (the levees of the Mississippi River came through the storm just fine), However, New Orleans’ rot seems to have been in a class all of its own in permeating every level of society in a myriad of ways. I recall reading one account in which the armed forces called in to cope with the disaster actually had to summon their military chaplains, to exorcise buildings that were spooking servicemen (no surprise, considering New Orleans municipal website promoted the city as the voodoo capital of the world). I remember a woman caller to a talk show wondering aloud at the time–not that the hurricane had struck New Orleans, but why something of that kind hadn’t happened long before!

  • dannyboy

    Well I believe Katrina was God’s punishment for sin here in America as was 9/11. God is removing His blessings from America and removing his arm of protection.

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