Rebuilding New Orleans

by | Sep 17, 2005 | POLITICS

Hurricane Katrina was a disaster, not only for the obvious reasons but for the less obvious reasons: the aftermath. By aftermath, am I referring to the alleged ineptitude of the federal government? No way. By aftermath, I mean the spectacle of political and moral/spiritual leaders screaming and shouting that people have a right to be […]

Hurricane Katrina was a disaster, not only for the obvious reasons but for the less obvious reasons: the aftermath.

By aftermath, am I referring to the alleged ineptitude of the federal government? No way.

By aftermath, I mean the spectacle of political and moral/spiritual leaders screaming and shouting that people have a right to be taken care of, implying they have no responsibility whatsoever for themselves. “How dare President Bush respond so inadequately!” is the unquestioned and Correct sentiment of the day, both explicit and implicit, from nearly all the major politicians, commentators and racial/religious types of leaders.

You can tell they’re angry not just about the lack of government funds for Katrina (billions upon billions aren’t enough?!) but the lack of government funds prior to Katrina, and for years after Katrina. Funds not just for levees in the city, but for everything.

That’s the real rage beneath the politically correct outrage over Katrina. It’s for people who are angry that the era of interventionist government is over, even though it isn’t and never was over.

President Bush, of course, happily obliges by all but saying he’s an idiot and trying to buy back affection in billions of our tax dollars, affection that he never had and never will enjoy from those who despise him. He’s saying that we’ll pay for rebuilding New Orleans by cutting “pork and fat” elsewhere in the federal budget. But where? President Bush, and his Republican Congress, are the biggest domestic spenders of tax dollars since Lyndon Baines Johnson. They have made it clear that they will say no to nothing that risks anyone disliking them, so why even bother to threaten to cut “pork,” whatever pork is? Pork and fat are metaphorical expressions to describe the “unnecessary,” but how can you define what is and isn’t necessary for a federal government budget when you treat everything as necessary?

Katrina is a genuine tragedy. It’s fine for private cirtizens to help the victims of a tragedy, although I never read in the Constitution that it was a guaranteed right to be provided by tax dollars. Even so, what virtue is there in pretending that the aftermath of this hurricane is all the fault of the federal government for not “doing enough”? The federal government has encouraged, for decades now, a mindset of helplessness and government dependence by the very population hardest hit by this storm (poor, mostly black and welfare-dependent people, of which, we have sadly learned, there are many in the New Orleans area). Instead of taking the blame for FEMA not managing to do the impossible, President Bush, who doesn’t ever face an election campaign again, ought to say the kinds of things I’m saying. He would be attacked endlessly, but he’s attacked endlessly now.

Most will disagree with me that government insurance for natural disasters–popularly known as FEMA–should be discontinued. Many will say it’s lacking in compassion to even think such a thing. Yet if there were no FEMA, and disaster insurance were left to the private market, people would be required to plan ahead. If the risk of living in an area like New Orleans–a known flood risk for nearly a century–were too expensive, then people would move to safer ground long before disaster hits. Instead, tens of thousands die.

Which is more compassionate–to let tens of thousands die, or to force them to face the facts before disaster hits? You’d see a lot fewer dead now if the government got out of the disaster relief business. I know it’s a lot easier for many people to blame “racism” or the hapless George Bush. The real truth is that if people were made to be responsible for their choices, their choices would be much wiser–and safer–ones.

If New Orleans rebuilds, and I hope it does, it won’t be due to government planning, nor even FEMA funds. (FEMA funds, by the way, come from the private sector, as all taxes do). Any rebuilding of New Orleans will only happen because the people who care about the community the most, and have the greatest level of foresight and competence, will have decided that New Orleans should be rebuilt.

I’d love to see the city rebuilt, but I’d love even more to see a new attitude develop, there and elsewhere in our country. I’m referring to an attitude of self-reliance, self-responsibility and pride–all attitudes that fly in the face of the welfare state mentality our government has worked so hard to foster in this once self-reliant society.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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