Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Why, oh why?

September 6th, 2005 · 2 Comments · Politics, Rants

Rape gangs, dead babies, oceans of feces, looting, snipers, reports of cannibalism, fires, suicides and on and on and on down there in the bayou. Why’d this happen? HOW could this happen, here in the Good Ol’ US of A?

Fear not! PLENTY of agenda-driven sycophants will help us make this all easy to digest, providing nice, juicy targets for us to hold up and burn in effigy. You’ll be able to choose from:

God’s wrath!
Nature’s wrath!
Gay people!
George Bush!
George Bush!
George Bush! (007-flavor)

And of course, the Right as a whole. From Salon:

The disaster, it seems to me, is the failure of a philosophy. A philosophy of small government, tax cuts, deficits and privatization. The federal government should have arrived sooner but the federal government was doing other things.

Which is, of course, almost completely incorrect.

I pick this specific bit of agenda-driven sophistry for special scrutiny because it’s the mantra I expect to hear the most of from partisan hacks, self-serving pundits and dull-witted activists over the coming weeks and months. They’re not the DUMBEST group of misguided folks out there, but I imagine they WILL be the most vocal.

What caused this disaster to be exponentially worse than necessary wasn’t “small government” or tax cuts or privatization. The Federal government is larger now than ever before. Tax revenue is through the roof on national, state AND local levels. Privatization is a lovely thought experiment we’ve never really bothered to try in a significant way.

So no, folks on the Left, fiscal conservatism is NOT to blame here. Nor is ostensible respect for limited government. Why? Because we don’t HAVE a fiscally conservative system OR a system that respects or even ATTEMPTS to achieve limited government. What is to blame here is obscenely poor leadership - and not just on behalf of the Current Administration.

Yes, George Bush has a LOT to answer for here. Once again, he’s proven that his “gravitas” is limited to scripted, well-planned events where his handlers can guarantee he’s only fed soft-ball questions and Grade-A photo ops. Deviate from The Script and the man turns inside out faster than a cheerleader’s sweater in the back seat of a sports car.

But Bill Clinton, George the First, Emperor Reagan and everyone on back to FDR is to blame for this nightmare as well. Their’s is the shared legacy of Federal Pandering - of government that seeks to cherry pick the best elements of limited government AND interventionist socialism - without worrying about mitigating the BURDENS that are the price of those benefits. We’ve been sold a bill of goods for GENERATIONS that seeks to convince us that we can live freely, with cheap fuel, cheap land, steady jobs, safe towns, great health care, affordable insurance, booming business, robust markets and low taxes - ALL provided to us EXCLUSIVELY by our Benevolent Federal Overseers.

We’ve been unbelievably lucky for an obscenely long time. This Frankenstein system of mediocre federalism cross-bred with short-sighted free market evangelism has managed to survive for far longer than any sane economist would’ve ever imagined. We got lucky with the Cold War, of course, since that let us put the screws to every major western power in the world for the better part of a century, lest they fall prey to the savage and brutal atheistic menace of the Soviets the second Yankee Doodle turned his back on them. NATO was like a Free Money Club for the US all throughout those booming years.

But then those crafty, godless Reds caught on, packed up shop and left us to swing in the breeze without any Decent Enemies to help us continue to wring cold, hard cash out of the terrified population of the Rest of the Free World. Now, give the Georges and Slick Willy credit - they TRIED to make things work. They tried going after Saddam Hussein (LOTS of times), they tried intervening in various “humanitariam crises,” they tried drumming up a brand NEW Cold War against a brand new faceless and onmipresent foe. But none of them had the style of those Commies (Commies: The Menace You Love to Hate!). Soon, the bills started to pile up. It came time to slash unglamourous budget items.

Insignificant Tax Cut? SEXY - it stays! Levee fortification on the set of Girls Gone Wild? NOT SEXY (despite the aforementioned Wild Girls) - it goes! Killing hostile brown people? SEXY - throw more money at it! FEMA - NOT SEXY, but helpful in FLORIDA… hrm… It stays, but will be WOEFULLY UNDERFUNDED!

But throwing money at problems isn’t enough. You need smart, SKILLED people who are in charge for reasons OTHER than having been valued donors to the Current Party in Power’s recent efforts. Give a chimpanzee a blank check and see how much good he manages to do you in times of crisis.

The directorship of FEMA is one of those positions - like Chief Boobie Inspector, Ambassador to Luxembourg and Attorney General - that go to Old Buddies whenever a New Administration takes over, rather than to people with any REAL experience related to the position. Stupidly straightforward 99% of the time, operating in a fashion that is more often harmed by meddling from the top than helped. So far, we haven’t really NEEDED anyone in FEMA who, for example, has any actual experience in Emergency Management, so it’s somewhat understandable that everyone since Jimmy Carter has rolled the dice and handed the job to a crony.

After all, FEMA’s main job is to write checks to people in Florida, California and various trailer parks throughout Tornado Alley. Sure, you need to be pretty good at looking grim and concerned whenever something bad (but predictable) happens. Then you just sit back and wait for the exact same responses that have worked for decades to get in gear. A handful of press conferences later, you’re back on your ranch, sipping a Budweiser and wasting tax payer money sending out invitations to your next barbeque on White House stationary.

Again, we got lucky for a long, long time.

American weather is - by and large - predictable and you can cope with most of its serious flare-ups on auto-pilot. 9/11 - though tragic - had a VERY limited scope and was largely handled on local, private and military levels. But the situation in New Orleans is unprecedented. You can almost hear Mike Brown starting to crack under the pressure. And it’s an understandable response - the poor, dumb bastard’s got NO background in disaster management. Hell, he’s a lawyer whose primary expertise relates to ANIMAL HUSBANDRY. Short of an outbreak of scandalously irresponsible Arabian horse breeding in the Big Easy, he doesn’t have much to offer.

And yet, there he is facing down a disaster far, far worse than 9/11 with no convenient foreigners to blame when things start to go sideways. And Dubyah is starting to distance himself as well. Bad times, Mikey. Bad times, indeed.

But enough predicting the end of Mike Brown’s career as a public servant, what can we learn from all of this?

1) The American culture of entitlement needs to end.

For too long we have been told that we “deserve” far too many things. We have a “right” to health care, to good schools, to low taxes, cheap gas and international respect. Well, actually, we don’t. Those are things we need to WORK for. They require hard and CONSTANT effort and NO ONE CAN GIVE THEM TO YOU. You can’t get them by voting for a vacuous collection of dull promises, no matter how charming, down-to-earth or “honest” the politician swearing by them happens to be.

Over reliance on Federal intervention just killed thousands - possibly TENS of thousands - of innocent people. People are being raped and robbed and beaten and murdered and left to starve and drown and burn because our society has grown accustomed to the idea that we can vote away all of our problems. Self reliance breeds vigilance and attention and concern. It encourages an educated, informed and involved populace. No, it wouldn’t have saved everyone, but it sure as hell would’ve guaranteed that more people were well supplied, well read and well armed before the worst case scenario befell them. And that’s the sort of preparation that keeps you alive and safe long enough for even extremely slow help to arrive.

2) Limited government doesn’t mean HELPLESS government.

The Federal government exists for a very limited number of reasons - to protect you from foreign invasion, to regulate inter-state trade and to KEEP YOU ALIVE WHEN CIVILIZATION COLLAPSES AROUND YOU. “Limited government” means not pissing money away on bankrupt and horribly mismanaged programs that seek to hand-hold the American public from the cradle to the grave, offering half-assed “solutions” to everything from athlete’s foot to not being able to get your ornamental bong sculptures displayed in a private art gallery. It DOESN’T mean hamstringing VITAL programs to fund pet projects, vanity programs and enough pork to woo Elvis back from the grave.

A bloated Federal system cannot effectively accomplish ANY of those goals. Our government should be waiting, patiently and quietly, with a well-armed and well-trained military, a properly-funded national emergency management system and scalable infrastructural elements that can mobilize at a moment’s notice. When the black clouds parted on the morning after that storm, the press corps shouldn’t have been able to even SEE the city of New Orleans because the sun was being blocked out by rescue helicoptors, supply planes and troop transports. The most troubling headline we should’ve seen was “War Mother’s Crawford Vigil Forced to End Early” because George Bush had left his Neverland Ranch with a mop, a bucket and a zodiac raft so he could be on the scene the moment the last raindrop fell so he could personally rescue people nonstop. Geraldo should’ve been forced to bring his own elderly women down for photo ops because everyone else had been quickly relocated within 24 hours.

3) If government cannot inform, there is no government.

Someone smarter than I am said that. It’s absolutely true. The final role of the Federal government is limited to one man - our President. He needn’t be a brilliant man, a great man or even a decent man - but he DOES need to be able to stand there and stare straight into the spot lights throughout an entire disaster. Calm, collected and ever-present. This situation doesn’t call for press conferences by the Junior Undersecretary of Secondary Risk Management, Media Concessions and Tapioca Harvesting. It calls for The Man, off his ass, off his ranch and right in front of us.

I do not like our President. I feel he is a corrupt, morally bankrupt man without the wits necessary to properly navigate a Taco Bell “drive thru” lane without significant outside assistance. But I know for a fact that he can do better than he has here. We’ve seen it before and I’m not sure why we aren’t seeing it now.

I don’t know if he’s surrounded himself with such a dark retinue of liars, thieves and sooth-sayers that he is no longer aware of how bad things are in the Real World or if he’s so stunned and afraid that he can no longer will himself out into public view without a full week of prep time. Frankly, I don’t care. I also disliked Ronald Reagan and George the First, but I never recall feeling like they weren’t on top of things when the dookie really started flying. Can you imagine Reagan going days without one of his comforting Oval Office speeches in the face of something like this? Can you imagine Clinton?

So there you go. We need actual leaders and we need a serious injection of personal responsibility and concern.

Warren’s taken to calling us “The United States Of Meathook.” At least for now, I am not inclined to disagree.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paul // Feb 19, 2006 at 12:42 am

    I quite liked this post. You blow hot and cold with your rhetoric, perhaps writing the post off line over a few days would have allowed you to hit a higher consistency? I also feel that this post loses a little of its focus as you dally with your wit when you may be better off hitting the raw nerve of how you feel.

    Always nice to see how a true self professed libertarian views the world. I was particularly tickled with the comment about people having more chance to arm them selves.

    No comment about remote chance of this being linked to climate change, but I have high hopes you will get around to that later.

    I think you also mildly over looked the nonsense of building a city below sea level in a hurricane zone. Oh and the fact that lots of poor people got the brunt of this rather than posh bankers buildings in NYC.

    Oh and it didn’t look as good on the new feed video clips. I think that also played a part. Oh and no obvious enemy to blame, wait you covered that bit.

    I do like reading your stuff though. You swear much more in text than in real life, I also think you’re funnier off the cuff.

  • 2 Paul // Feb 20, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Some of my first comments are about the blog in general as I had just done 3 hours straight blog reading.

    So lemmi make one more point, I was not suggesting Josh was attempting to make light of everything he covers here. Thought I best do that afer I noticed I had written about wit on the blog article about loads of innocent people being killed.

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