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Video: That Offensive Tribune Katrina Column? Rauner Made The Same Argument In 2011

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 20, 2015 8:00PM

Last week, Chicago Tribune Editorial Board member Kristen McQueary raised more than eyebrows with an utterly tone deaf column stating that Chicago needed a Hurricane Katrina-style disaster to fix its political corruption and budget problems.

Despite a torrent of Tweets and op-ed responses about all of the things wrong with wishing a natural disaster would wash away thousands of people—people who would would probably people of color, people with disabilities or people who happen to be poor—she doubled down on her piece, telling detractors that they just didn’t understand.

While McQueary’s opinion might be reprehensible, it’s really not new. As we pointed out, both Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Koch brothers both looked at a natural disaster that killed and displaced thousands of people as an “opportunity.” Sadly, the interest in exploiting crisis and disaster was also shared by our own governor Bruce Rauner.

Back in 2011, when he was chairman of the private equity firm GTCR, Rauner referred to Hurricane Katrina as a “success.” while speaking at an “Education Innovation Summit” at Arizona State University in Phoenix. He made the comment during a Q&A session about strategies for “separating the teachers from the union leadership.” Asked to give a great example, he responded:

“New Orleans is too, with [Paul] Vallas and what’s been done. Politically they didn’t have to blow up the system, the hurricane blew up the system. They could start fresh. It’s a tragedy but it’s one of the few bright spots of that horrible event, where they didn’t have the political fight.”

While at least Rauner doesn’t actively wish for such a tragedy to happen and refers to it as “horrible,” it’s still the same type of sentiment that an increasing number of powerful people seem to have regarding using truly horrific things to move an agenda forward that leaves behind the most marginalized of society.

Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, called Rauner’s statement “vile.” In an email to Chicagoist, Montgomery said:

“A natural disaster that levels a great American city, kills thousands of people, and destroys a public school system doesn’t have a single bright spot, let alone a few, as Governor Rauner claims. I invite Mr. Rauner to list the other brights spots he saw in Katrina. If this doesn’t illustrate the Governor’s warped priorities and twisted perspective on the future he envisions for Illinois, I don’t know what will.”