Was Katrina Disaster God’s Judgement on Corruption?
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 AffluentInvestor.com, 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 CNBC.com, 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 three of their seven children.