Jack wrote this in September, 2005:
The scrutineering’s begun, the witch-hunters are getting their torches all lit up for some really juicy burnings at the stake.
So who is responsible for what’s happened in New Orleans and surrounding communities?
The people of Louisiana are responsible. Louisiana knew about those dikes. The residents knew about them. They continued to build behind them.
Now they’ve been destroyed by the flood they knew was coming for many years.
Who’s responsible for the mess there now? FEMA? President Bush?
Frankly, I dislike FEMA somewhere around Category 5, assuming this was a Cat 4 storm. But FEMA is not responsible for what happened here. They didn’t make the choices that put houses in areas where they’d flood. In fact, they pleaded, begged, threatened and cajoled the communities of Louisiana for many years trying to get them to mitigate flood damage by building outside floodprone areas.
I wish I could assign some blame to FEMA, but I can’t.
So, who then?
The Corps of Engineers?
With the exception of 404 Permitting personnel, the employees of the US Army Corps of Engineers are probably the most qualified, responsible, competent workforce I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. The Corps, however, is the instrument of the US Government. It can do nothing without the consent of Congress and the President.
I like this president about as well as I like FEMA. I’d love to see him take a bath on this. But the bath would be misplaced, because this Prez, however stupid and lousy I believe he is, (the mirror image of the electorate) had nothing to do with this. He was asked to assist, and he’s assisting as best he can. It might be his fault he can’t respond better, but he had no responsibility to respond, except within the context of the overall well being of the nation.
So who does that leave?
The people you’re seeing submerged in anguish on the news are precisely the people who caused this disaster, by their failure to evacuate, their failure to vote taxes to improve levies, their failure to support building standards to prevent this kind of devastation, their failure to elect officials who’d behave responsibly in the face of this threat that’s been before them for generations.
This nation has no responsibility to Louisiana for this disaster, other than a humanitarian one.
Whatever help can be provided through charities, FEMA (short of funds for rebuilding), and individuals is admirable. It’s compassion and generosity of the sort we ought to demand of ourselves.
But no person who is not a resident of Louisiana is responsible for this debacle. No person who resides outside the boundaries of Louisiana has any obligation beyond a moral one to do anything for them at all.
Louisiana is getting the kind of help you’d give when you extend a hand to a drowning man. It doesn’t matter whether he was drunk and fell out of the boat, whether he was using bad judgment to get himself into that predicament. The rest of us will extend a hand.
But anything we do beyond that is purely a matter of personal choice.
Which, of course, is a falsehood. We’ll all do a lot more than that, and we won’t have any choice at all. We’ll pay for it in deficit spending by our government and tax dollars without anyone asking whether we’d like to do more.