At a South By Southwest concert at Stubb's BBQ Stipe acknowledged that this track was inspired by former First Lady Barbara Bush's caustic comments about Hurricane Katrina refugees who had moved to Texas. He added that he was "terrified history is gonna look back on this decade and the terrible overreaction of the (presidential) administration to 9/11. We have almost two years to make this decade worth something, and I think we have the power to do that." (quote from Billboard magazine)
Stipe told The Sun March 27, 2008 that, of all of Accelerate's tracks, this is the one that means the most to him: "Houston is not an angry song, in fact it's filled with sadness. I was writing from the point of view of someone who has barely survived Hurricane Katrina and then been displaced. Barbara Bush, the ex-First Lady and the president's mother, said, 'So many of the people were underprivileged anyway, so this is working well for them.' Hello, Barbara these are people who lost everything. I know people who lost family members, their homes, everything."
In an interview on the Morning Edition, Stipe told host Steve Inskeep that this song deals with questions of faith in response to what happened to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The narrator's religious faith is challenged by the events he's witnessed - particularly the Bush administration's response in the storm's aftermath.
In the same Morning Edition interview Stipe revealed that this song came about when keyboardist Mike Mills heard guitarist Peter Buck playing a new guitar part, and was inspired to respond with a menacing organ line. This then presented the REM frontman with an opportunity to write about Hurricane Katrina. He said: "I've always felt since the early days, that when I'm writing a vocal part, my job is to make it sound like that's the only vocal part that [could] ever possibly go along to that piece of music."