A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Katrina Address

I just watched President Bush give his speech addressing Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath, the blame, and the future. You can find the transcript here.

I liked some of it, but there were some major parts I have big issues with.

First, fellow Americans have lost everything in the greatest natural disaster in America's history. It is only right and moral that fellow Americans give aid and comfort. It is right that we donate to the American Red Cross and Catholic Charities and all the other wonderful charities that rush into the rescue. It is right that we hold fundraisers and fill empty milk cartons with spare change and send packages of food, clothing, and necessities. We wouldn't be America if we didn't help those in need. But it should be Americans doing so, not the government.

That said, on to the speech:

And the federal government will undertake a close partnership with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, the city of New Orleans, and other Gulf Coast cities, so they can rebuild in a sensible, well planned way. Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems. Our goal is to get the work done quickly. And taxpayers expect this work to be done honestly and wisely – so we will have a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures.
While I recognize it is not necessarily feasible for devastated cities that no longer have any revenue to pay the costs of repairing public infrastructure, I do not think the federal government should either. Cities are the responsibility of their officials and of the states, not of the federal government. If your house burns down, you cannot expect the city government to pay for its rebuilding. The same goes for public buildings, bridges, schools, etc.

It wouldn't be so bad if the federal government were merely lending the money to these cities, but I don't think that is what the President is suggesting. A federal loan to the state/city would mean that that state/city would use the money now, but pay us taxpayers back.

I think this should be the case for any disaster here in the United States: earthquakes in California, floods anywhere, blizzards, etc.

In the rebuilding process, there will be many important decisions and many details to resolve, yet we are moving forward according to some clear principles. The federal government will be fully engaged in the mission, but Governor Barbour, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future. Clearly, communities will need to move decisively to change zoning laws and building codes, in order to avoid a repeat of what we have seen. And in the work of rebuilding, as many jobs as possible should go to men and women who live in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Governor Barbour is awesome and did an excellent job. Blanco and Nagin ought to resign for their astounding incompetence. They shouldn't be allowed to offer input. They have already shown they can't follow a plan if they have years to prepare for it. Should we let them come up with ideas off the cuff, when they can't even follow instructions?

And as for the jobs, they should be fair game. Anyone who wants a job in this country and is willing to work hard should be able to head down South. After all, the government will be using taxpayer money to fund these jobs. I'm sure there will be plenty to do, including shipping supplies, cleaning up muck, tearing down buildings, etc.

I do think that the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama ought to be out there cleaning up their own cities and homes. No sitting around, listening to jazz, and eating Southern cooking while National Guard and others slave away. They need to take responsibility for their futures.

As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality. When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets. When the houses are rebuilt, more families should own, not rent, those houses.
we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment … tax relief for small businesses … incentives to companies that create jobs ... and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again. It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity . . .
I cannot stand it when the President panders to the PC crowd. Americans lost their homes, property, businesses, and lives in the Gulf Coast. All kinds of Americans, not just the poor or minority. If people want to build businesses, they need to do it through their own hard work, not through government handouts. If the government sets up a program to give out loans so people can rebuild or start businesses, then that would be fine. I have a big problem, however, with the government doling out money simply because someone is a minority or poor. Shouldn't all Americans touched by this disaster be given the same level of help, regardless of their station in life? I think so.

The American Dream isn't one of the government bailing people out. It is about Americans working as hard as they can to build up their businesses, to get ahead in life, to have what they need. By continuing the abhorent tradition of the welfare state, the government will not be doing the poor people of the region any favors. This is the chance for those who have always relied on the government to learn how much better life can be. It is a time for children who have grown up with rotten schools and welfare parents to learn in good schools and have working parents. People who want to own homes need to work hard to do so. The government shouldn't just hand houses out. There are people all over the country who have worked hard for years and still don't own their own homes. Most people have mortgages and work hard to pay them off. It wouldn't be very equitable for the government to just give some people houses. Perhaps all home mortgages in the United States should be forgiven at the same time people are given houses through Hurricane relief.

To help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government, and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity. Home ownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region.
And if the government is going to give away government land, then it had better do so all over the country. That's just wrong. The federal government has already poured so much money into hurricane relief, and will continue to do so, and American citizens have done the same. Where are we going to draw the line? Are we just going to give every person (of a certain income/race) a new home, a federal job, and buckets of money?

That isn't how America should work. I believe Americans should help those who are in need, but the government should not be in the business of fixing lives. The American Red Cross does an excellent job in that aspect and the American people are providing bountiful donations. The people hurt by the hurricane must reclaim their own lives and futures---the government can't do it for them and it shouldn't try.

It is not the government's job to right wrongs in people's lives or in history. By providing homes, land, money, etc., the government is ensuring a continued welfare state. Shouldn't we instead be offering job training, loans, and encouragement? Shouldn't we offer hope instead of the depressing squalor of being reliant on the government?

Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature – and we will not start now.
That was true before the introduction of the welfare state. Now a significant portion of the US population prefers others to do all the work while they sit around and suck the rest of us dry. If we want to reclaim that American characteristic, now is the time to begin.

Now, there were parts I liked in the speech. Unfortunately, for me they were drowned out the pandering to Liberals.

The end was excellent and I wish the entire thing had been in this vein:

I know that when you sit on the steps of a porch where a home once stood … or sleep on a cot in a crowded shelter … it is hard to imagine a bright future. But that future will come. The streets of Biloxi and Gulfport will again be filled with lovely homes and the sound of children playing. The churches of Alabama will have their broken steeples mended and their congregations whole. And here in New Orleans, the street cars will once again rumble down St. Charles, and the passionate soul of a great city will return.

In this place, there is a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful “second line” – symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge – yet we will live to see the second line.

Thank you, and may God bless America.
This can happen, but only if people decide to reclaim their lives, their cities, and their self-respect. After the waters have drained away and the mess is cleaned up, I hope we see people begin to set up their own stores and restuarants, build their own homes, and rebuild their cities. I pray that they will.

So, if you want to help, please donate to the relief effort. You can read more about different charities here.