Thursday, December 13, 2012

Katrina v Sandy: Measuring The Dollars

I was listening to the radio this afternoon, hearing lots of talk about the big "Hurricane Sandy" concert last night. I wasn't surprised to learn that, so far, Americans have donated $250M to the cause, but I was surprised to learn that by the equivalent time in Sept. 2005, Americans had donated nearly a billion dollars to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Why might that be?

Back in 2005, in George Bush's America, people had a lot more money in their pockets, and were happily willing to donate some of that bounty to people they saw as being in genuine need.

The devastation in New Orleans was in our faces, thanks to relentless media hype.

Back in 2005, no one was trying to say that the gov't would do everything. My recollection is that the Bush Administration was actively encouraging people to donate money, and was working with private sector firms that could offer relevant services. Nowadays? All we're hearing is how Obama is getting out the Big Federal Checkbook.

This next bit is hard to explain, and may sound self-serving, but here it goes.  We have never stopped hearing about how the Bush Years were a cruel, laissez faire era, when people were "on their own." (pause for bitter, sarcastic laughter). That's as compared to now when, supposedly, Americans are expanding the safety net, providing "free" health care to all, and "spreading the wealth around." Yet, over and over again in the Bush years, we saw incredible bursts of charitable giving whether after 9/11, Katrina, the Asian Tsunami, and a dozen other lesser disasters. We just don't see that level of charitable giving -- whether of money, time or resources -- now, do we? I do think that was partially a reflection of better economic times, but it's also a reflection of the man at the top. George Bush may have had a lot of problems, but he was a genuinely good man with a true Christian conscience. Even if he and the gov't couldn't solve every problem that came howling into the Oval Office, he always made sure to make these heartful pleas for donations and was always full of praise for the first-responders and others who were cleaning up after disaster. It was infectious and, I think, made people want to contribute something, even if it was a little pocket money. Even though there wasn't a gov't organizing the $$, there was still a national communal feeling out there that sent donations pouring in. Now? Without getting into finger-pointing over who is or is not damned, I will simply say that the current president's professed Christianity is neither as deep or as charitable as that of his predecessors. And, for all his talk of post-partisan unity (more bitter sarcastic laughter), it's sadly obvious that Obama cannot inspire people to act out of the goodness of their hearts in the way his predecessors could. He's made it clear (as have NY & NJ's politicos) that the gov't is on the case and that's that. Perfunctory calls to donate to the Red Cross, are just that - perfunctory calls (and how appropriate that Dems prefer the semi-corrupt quasi-governmental Red Cross, to the thousands of churches that were active in the Bush days). The fact is that Obama's efforts to divide Americans by class, race, etc., and to castigate the sort of people who were opening their wallets for disaster relief efforts just a half-decade ago, have resulted in a society with less charity, less communal feeling, and less hope. Heckuva job.

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