Online UpdateKatrina May Have Political, Economic Ramifications

While most of the damage from Hurricane Katrina is centralized in the Gulf area, the possible ripple effects of the devastation there are making people think twice about the future for the economy and politics.

John Barkdull, an associate professor of political science at Texas Tech, said that while Katrina is more of a localized disaster, the political ramifications may be huge.

“It’s not a good moment for the administration,” he said.

The lack of preparation for the hurricane has caused an outcry of criticism against the Bush administration, Barkdull said, and the impact could be seen in the 2006 midterm elections.

“People look at this,” he said. “They tend to punish incumbents when things aren’t going well. It could go either way. If you don’t think it could happen, just look at the Democrats. It can turn around in a hurry.”

The political impact remains far off in the future for the presidential election, Barkdull said, and even though the president may not be able to stop things from coming, he could have been more prepared.

“President Bush doesn’t have any control over the weather,” he said. “He’s just the man that happens to be in the seat at the wrong time.”

As with Hurricane Ivan, Hurricane Katrina caused a big hit to domestic production, Barkdull said. With the impact of supply and demand on the economy, he said the United States could be facing a serious issue with inflation.

“We see it as consumers directly at the gas pump,” he said. “Everything is affected by that.”

Joel Carton, an assistant professor of economics at Tech, said the loss of refineries along the coast has played a role in the supply of gas and oil.

“That could be a serious drag on the economy,” Carton said. “It’s hard to say what the deal’s going to be.”

It could take a year at least to sort everything out, Barkdull said.

“As soon as there’s a change in supply, it affects the price at the pump immediately,” he said. “From everything I’ve been reading, the world production is just about maxed out.”

Barkdull said the increase in demand from other industrializing countries will also play a role in the economy.

The U.S. is not a major exporter of oil, Carton said, and the contribution internationally is fairly small.

“I don’t think that’s going to have a big impact on oil prices worldwide – or gas prices, for that matter,” he said.