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Hurricane Katrina: Five years on, New Orleans's problems have gone national

What Hurricane Katrina brought to New Orleans – government failures, a hollowed-out housing market, and big federal bailouts – is now understood by the rest of America.

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The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is an occasion to think of the hurricane and its aftermath as a singular event, and in many ways, the storm and its consequences were, in fact, unique.

But five years after a hurricane that ranks as one of the worst natural disasters in American history, the storm seems less like an aberration and more like a prelude to themes that have continued to shake our national life far from the shores of the Gulf Coast.

Overnight, Katrina left thousands of homeowners with property that was worth much less than they owed on it. Back in 2005, the thought of such a phenomenon seemed surreal, a stark blemish in an otherwise booming real estate market across the country.

But in the wake of a subsequent global recession – and a meltdown in the housing sector – homeowners throughout the United States have felt an eerily similar reversal of circumstances.

'Quaint' bailout

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