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Katrina Wakeup Call
By Norman Kurland

September 7, 2005

" The Katrina crisis will strain America’s power to respond to national disasters — both natural and man-made. How then can we turn this disaster into an opportunity to launch a comprehensive program for regional rebuilding that would be supported by all Americans? What are the new ideas that could help us address the systemic and structural causes of mass poverty, the ideas that could help us overcome ideologies of hate with a truly American ideology of freedom, justice, and hope?
If ever there was a time to think outside-the-box, it is now ! "
--Norman Kurland

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

A small group of concerned leaders in the environmental, civil rights, and economic justice community have developed the Katrina Plan for Regional Rebirth. Enclosed is our comprehensive national mobilization plan to turn the Katrina Disaster into a model for solving some of the most urgent problems you face as President.

Our plan is not designed to alleviate the immediate suffering of millions of people in the region surrounding New Orleans, Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Katrina. You and other leaders are already rallying the American people to meet these most urgent needs.

This bold plan is for the long-term, to rebuild the disaster region economically, ecologically and spiritually. It draws upon the power of America’s most revolutionary ideas — problem-solving concepts “whose time has come.” While focusing on the future of the disaster region, our plan is consistent with your call for a domestic “ownership society.”

It will demonstrate to the world how Americans, when challenged with extreme poverty and hopelessness, can respond with compassion and justice. Further, it will show how the untapped technological and financial potential of America’s private sector can help launch a project on a scale dwarfing that of Roosevelt’s Manhattan Project, Truman’s Marshall Plan, or Kennedy’s Race to the Moon.

Most important, this plan will take advantage of a long-neglected source of financing for the rebuilding of the region as a model for sound ecological and infrastructural study, assessment, planning and development. This low-cost funding source is not dependent on taxpayer support or ownership-concentrating financing methods, nor does it require existing savings of domestic and foreign investors.

The Katrina Plan will also send a powerful message to the growing number of people around the world who blame America unfairly for the economic and social conditions that breed global terrorism. Mr. President, we believe you have an historic opportunity to address this crisis in a way that will promote prosperity, freedom and peace through justice in the world. We urge you to consider seriously and act boldly on our proposal.
I know of no more lasting legacy you could leave to America and, by example, to the world.

*The Katrina Wake-up Call: A Strategy for Turning Disaster into A Twenty-First Century Model for Regional Rebirth*

*Executive Summary*

Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States, will likely rival 9/11 in terms of its economic impact and social upheaval. However, this colossal human tragedy also offers a unique opportunity to rebuild the affected areas and foster a rebirth of the American Spirit. By launching a massive redevelopment program financed in ways in which every citizen of the region can participate directly in the ownership of the new capital formation and land recovery, the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government, in cooperation with state authorities and the Federal Reserve System, can encourage universal citizen participation in capital ownership.

This would create a regional free enterprise model of an “ownership society.” Through a non-inflationary use of the money-creation powers of the Federal Reserve System and special tax reforms like those provided to leveraged employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), the proposal would relieve Federal and State taxpayers of the huge anticipated bill for rebuilding the region’s economy and creating ecologically sound infrastructure to avoid future disasters like Katrina.

A major innovation in this plan is the establishment of a for-profit, citizen-owned Regional Natural Resources Bank to acquire land and coordinate future land use and infrastructural development.

The plan would offer all area citizens an array of unique “Capital Homesteading” incentives to build from the ground-up a Twenty-First Century global exemplar of a participatory ownership society. All citizens within the affected region would have equal access to share ownership and would participate equally as shareholders in the governance of capital projects financed under the Katrina Plan.

Finally, the proposal would finance the application and manufacture of advanced renewable, waste-to-energy technologies that would assist in the massive clean-up of toxic wastes left in the wake of the Katrina disaster, and would launch an overall energy plan that is ecologically sound. This would re-establish America’s key industries on a secure basis, as well as provide a template for strengthening the United States economy in all sectors and regions.

The Challenge.

Hurricane Katrina was perhaps the most devastating natural calamity in America’s history. While the cost in human life and suffering cannot be fully measured, initial estimates of the economic costs of Hurricane Katrina to people and property from this natural disaster are in the hundreds of billions. The American economy is already facing close to $400 billion in annual budget deficits, hundreds of billions in annual trade deficits, and an estimated $1 trillion long-term cost of the war in Iraq. And just as we begin the massive cleanup, recovery and rebuilding effort in the devastated region, some climatologists are predicting that more Katrinas may be on the way.

In its path of destruction, Katrina has laid bare America’s substrata of poverty and remaining racism, inadequate and insecure incomes, homelessness, unemployment, and the many other symptoms of its current exclusionary economic, financial and ownership system. We will soon see Katrina’s reverberations on our already financially shaky social security and health care system, and after-shocks in the form of global wage arbitrage, shrinking oil and gas reserves, climatological threats from inadequate pollution controls, and growing budget and trade deficits.

Further, in addressing the Katrina emergency, the President of the United States cannot fail to see its connection to the war on global terrorism. Having witnessed the vulnerability of our population and infrastructure, America’s strategic planners cannot help but consider a parallel scenario of suicide terrorists delivering weapons of mass destruction in a coordinated attack against our major centers of population, a calamity that could dwarf Katrina’s destruction.

The Katrina crisis will strain America’s power to respond to national disasters — both natural and man-made. How then can we turn this disaster into an opportunity to launch a comprehensive program for regional rebuilding that would be supported by all Americans? What are the new ideas that could help us address the systemic and structural causes of mass poverty, the ideas that could help us overcome ideologies of hate with a truly American ideology of freedom, justice, and hope?

If ever there was a time to think outside-the-box, it is now.

Basic Steps for Implementing a Justice-Based Solution to the Katrina Disaster.

1. Under the Katrina Plan for Regional Rebirth, President Bush, with the support of the Governors of the States of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, would designate the counties and parishes in the tri-State regional disaster area to receive special treatment for recovery and rebuilding. A regional model of Capital Homesteading for every citizen, would be launched in the Katrina disaster zone. (For summary of concept, see

2. The President would seek Congressional authorization for the establishment of a for-profit, citizen-owned Regional Natural Resources Bank (RNRB) as the private sector vehicle for implementing the project.
The RNRB would be a land planning and development corporation with a representative board elected by citizen-shareholders for approving, financing and maintaining infrastructure projects, approving construction contracts under competitive bidding, and marketing to attract feasible new investment to the disaster zone. (The RNRB is an expanded version of the Community Investment Corporation that was invented for building model communities, as described at

3. Under the plan, the three states would enter into a regional compact to delegate their powers of eminent domain to the citizen-owned RNRB.
Such a compact would enable the RNRB to acquire all government-owned land and natural resources in the tri-state disaster zone on behalf of all citizen-shareholders, purchase title to privately-owned land that must be redeveloped, and develop a 30-year plan for comprehensive reconstruction of the disaster area.

4. Consistent with the long-term RNRB plan for building ecologically sound and sustainable community life for area citizens, the RNRB would assess land rentals, auction licenses for the extraction of resources, and collect use and maintenance fees for regional infrastructure.

5. The Federal Reserve System would use its seldom-used discount powers under section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act to monetize through member banks low-cost (transaction fees and risk premiums only) loans for feasible projects of the RNRB. Feasibility would be determined by lenders and capital credit insurers and reinsurers, with environmental guidelines established by designated Federal and State oversight agencies. Loans would be collateralized by the land and other assets of the RNRB.

6. An independent private sector regional capital credit insurance corporation would be established to scrutinize the feasibility of Capital Homesteading loans, to charge risk premiums on the loans to cover the risk of default, and to serve as a substitute for conventional collateral to meet the needs of new zone businesses.

7. Congress would give the RNRB tax treatment similar to that received by leveraged employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) under the Internal Revenue Code, so that dividend payouts would be tax-deductible at the corporate level and taxable at the individual level. After servicing its bank loans and covering its own operating expenses, the RNRB would distribute dividends equally to each citizen-shareholder. Thus, property incomes would increase the purchasing power of all citizens, lifting the region’s poor from continuing dependency on government welfare or private charity.

Anticipated Outcomes.

1. By giving regional member banks access to its discount mechanism, the Fed would supply sufficient asset-backed credit for all capital and infrastructure projects. In the face of mounting Federal and State budget deficits, this step alone would take enormous pressure off Federal and state taxpayers and would be far less costly than any existing sources of accumulated savings. (See Harold Moulton, The Formation of Capital, Brookings Institution, 1935, and chapter VII of Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen, a book published in 2004 by the Center for Economic and Social Justice, at

2. As long as they maintain their primary home in the zone, each citizen would become economically empowered by the privilege of receiving a personal lifetime, dividend-yielding, non-transferable voting share in the RNRB, a modern counterpart of Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1862. This private property right in a community’s land, natural resources and infrastructure parallels the right of each citizen to “own” the public sector through personal access to the vote.

3. Government’s role would shift from ownership of land to establishing broad guidelines for citizen participation in ownership; recommending ecological safeguards in the rebuilding process; settling disputes not resolvable by voluntary mediation and arbitration; lifting institutional and financial barriers to equal ownership and job opportunities especially for the poor; and securing the lives, liberties and property of all citizens.

4. The availability of Capital Homestead stakes for all citizens and interest-free bank loans for private sector development should serve as a magnet for attracting diverse entrepreneurial ventures for sustaining a more ecologically sound area economy that can compete without special protections in the global marketplace.

Initial Katrina Project Coalition.

1. In our network is Equitech International, LLC, a company headed by a former master planner and architect at Georgetown University. Equitech holds a remarkable systems patent for pollution-free “Hydrogen Age”
waste-to-energy technologies developed originally for lunar colonies.
Micro- and macro-sized applications of these technologies could be manufactured in the region and employed for stand-alone energy systems to meet the region’s future energy needs. (See

2. Also in the Katrina Project Network is Team Syntegrity ™ of Toronto, Canada, which offers a planning protocol that incorporates the tested concepts of the late Dr. Stafford Beer, noted as the “father of managerial cybernetics.” This communications tool has been used by businesses and governments around the world to compress the time it takes for professionals from highly diverse fields to develop solutions to extremely complex problems, such as those that will have to be addressed in this project. (See <>

3. The leaders and counselors of our non-partisan, interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) are ready to volunteer to help get this project underway. We are now organizing an initial broad-based core of environmental, civil rights, religious, labor and business leaders committed to designing a democratic free enterprise growth plan for the disaster zone. The plan is based on a “post-scarcity” model articulated by such visionaries as Louis Kelso, Buckminster Fuller, and Martin Luther King, Jr. You can count on our support. This core includes close associates of these three visionaries. (See

4. A top official of the Sierra Club is now studying our approach. We hope that the Sierra Club, the Buckminster Fuller Institute, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other organizations in our network will supply the grassroots leadership and outreach for the critical mass of people power and leadership power needed to move our plan forward politically.

Expanding the Political Leverage for the Katrina Plan.

1. If President Bush sees the merits of moving forward with our Katrina Plan, he would appoint a Presidential Task Force to work out the details for moving forward to develop the long-term comprehensive plan, similar to the 1985 Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice.
President Reagan appointed this author to the task force where he served as deputy chairman, under former OAS Ambassador J. William Middendorf, II. The PEJ Task Force was charged by Congress and the President to develop a strategy for spreading ESOPs throughout the Caribbean and Central America as a free enterprise counterforce against communist threats to regional stability.

2. Using the leverage of organizations backing the Katrina Project (see above), separate private meetings would be arranged with former President Bill Clinton, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and Senator Trent Lott to explain to them the strategy and unique approach to financing the project.

3. These leaders would be asked to contact the Governors of Louisiana and Alabama to gain their support for this alternative plan.

4. Separate meetings would be arranged with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan for project leaders to explain the key role the Fed would be asked to play in financing the hundreds of billions of dollars needed for reconstruction projects in the regional disaster zone. The Fed would authorize special access to the Atlanta and New Orleans Feds’ discount windows under section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act, enabling member banks operating in the zone to monetize credit needed for feasible projects and broad-based capital ownership. (Chairman Greenspan is familiar with our monetary reforms from an exchange of correspondence he had in March and April 1995 with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and from our Capital Homesteading book that he received from Dr. Norman A. Bailey, with whom he served in the Reagan White House.)

Hurricane Katrina will undoubtedly be written into America’s history as a watershed event on the scale of 9/11. Mr. President, from your vantage point occupying the highest seat of power, you understand that this crisis and its solution cannot be isolated from the other huge challenges facing America in the 21st century. With this crisis comes an historic opportunity. The moment demands ideas equal to the challenge and a leader with the foresight and courage to champion a genuine vision of justice and hope for the future.

Mr. President, we believe that armed with these uniquely American revolutionary ideas, you can turn a disaster into your most important legacy.





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