Getting Real About Hurricane Rebuilding

Do we want to live in a world where government funding is done by sleight of hand?

Copyright © 2005 Dorian Scott Cole

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One of my daughters once snagged a piece of candy as she accompanied me through a supermarket candy aisle. I told her she could have it if she shared it with her sister. She immediately reached out and grabbed another one. In her childlike world of unlimited supply, sharing didn't mean dividing. But that is not typical of reality.

The US economy has been hard hit by an economic downturn, the cost of the War Against Terrorism, and the high cost of oil. Government borrowing is threatening to qualify the US economy for "junk bond" status. While President Bush's announced intentions to rebuild New Orleans is welcome and warranted, the question is, "Where is he going to get the funding?"

I hope Congress finds the funding. Hopefully they will not follow the President's stated intentions of reducing funding to other government programs, which are already in a dismal state. For example, the medical system is in crisis, Medicare funding is on the chopping block, State governments are removing funding from many essential programs which is hurting the poor and elderly, prices are rapidly rising, corporate medical benefit programs are crumbling, and the number of people unable to afford medical care is rapidly growing. We can neither grab another piece of candy off the aisle, nor make further cuts from people in desperate need of medical assistance.


Promises  Promises

Get real. There are realistic and very helpful things that the government can do without increasing the national debt, or robbing from the poor. The government can give emergency assistance, act as a spark plug and organizer, make loans, create incentives for private investment, fund re-education programs, help people relocate, assist States with resettlement expenses, and even borrow small amounts to fund direct assistance for rebuilding. One Survey indicates that the majority of the people in the US would even permit a tax increase to cover the costs.

The old saying applies, "Give a man food, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life." Assistance is very different from handouts - there is a season for both.

Essential programs that are already at starvation levels are unlikely resources for finding funding - further cutting government programs would cause injustice to solve a natural injustice.

The people in Mississippi and Louisiana, the poorest States in the Union, have long existed in poverty, are devastated by Katrina, are long overdue our compassion and assistance, and must get it.

At the practical level, no matter which path money takes, it really only comes from one place: us. Government sleight of hand pretends to take money from various sources. In past decades, Congress was infamous for creating programs with mandates for State spending, and then failing to fund the programs. The recent FEMA / local government debacle was not a good indication that responsibility and competence has taken root in government. Will lack of planning and preparedness for a devastating hurricane be matched by lack of planning and preparedness for rebuilding? Do we want to live in a world in which blithely tossing money from a magic hat is considered the most appropriate solution?

- Scott

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