Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's beginning

Thus commences the bureaucratic nightmare:
U.S. Offers Katrina Families $2,000 Each

Dispossessed families of Hurricane Katrina will receive debit cards good for $2,000 to spend on clothing and other immediate needs, the Bush administration announced Wednesday, working to recast a relief effort drawing scant praise from Republicans and scathing criticism from top congressional Democrats.

President Bush is "oblivious, in denial, dangerous," when it comes to the plight of the storm's victims, charged House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Her Senate counterpart, Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), asked pointedly whether the chief executive impeded relief efforts by remaining at his Texas ranch last week while the storm churned toward the Gulf Coast....

The administration formally asked Congress for $51.8 billion in relief and recovery expenses in addition to $10.5 billion already approved, calling it the latest installment, but not the last. "We will in fact need substantially more" money, said budget director Josh Bolten, estimating the money would cover expenses for "a few weeks."

Bolten said about half of the newly requested funds would take the form of direct aid to individuals, and the administration said that included an estimated 320,000 of the $2,000 debit cards per household at a cost of $640 million.

Michael Brown, the embattled director of the Federal Management and Emergency Agency, said those eligible for the unprecedented debit cards would be permitted to use the money "for emergency supplies they need" such as clothing. "The concept is to get them some cash on hand which allows them, empowers them to make their own decisions about what do they need to have to repair their own lives," he said.
The fight between President Bush and Democrats isn't just over how much to spend: it's over who can spend it the fastest, any way possible, and on anyone possible.

Perhaps I'm just up too late, but my head spins to think of the potential for fraud and crime in this program. For the sake of time, and because I've discussed it before, I won't tonight delve into the inappropriate and unconstitutional role of government when it comes to charity (I'll simply reference Walter Williams' brilliant "Not Yours to Give"). Let me throw out a few predictions. People will falsify records to obtain more cards, and government bureaucrats will be so eager to help as many as possible; their programs' success is determined by numbers, not results. Others may use only cards obtained "legitimately," but they'll spend the money all on clothes and other items which can be resold readily for cash -- perhaps to support drug addictions or even crime. Are you a criminal in need of firearms, and you were too slow to steal them from evacuated homes? No problem: the federal government just gave you a $2000 gift card! Strike up a deal with a black market supplier and see what he wants that you can get.

If the possibilities weren't so tragic, this might be a good lesson for economics students on the barter system.
With polls showing Bush's approval ratings at low levels, Democrats seemed more emboldened to criticize him than at any time since he won a new term and they lost seats in 2004. They sought to use the events to question the appointment of John Roberts as chief justice and call on the GOP to put off a looming deficit-reduction package.

"We have just had a massive disaster," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. "This is not a time to be cutting services to the most needy among us."
Whatever happened to this alleged reversal of roles, that Republicans are the big deficit spenders, and Democrats are now the promoters of fiscal responsibility? That's because neither party really cares, not when there's a political agenda to push, or voters to win over when there are very tough elections only 14 months away.
Referring to large numbers of poor and black New Orleans residents who were dispossessed by the storm, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said earlier in the week the disaster underscored "the glaring economic disparities facing our citizens."

"As a nation, we must be sensitive to this inequality, sensitive as we respond to Katrina, and sensitive, too, as we select now justices for the Supreme Court," he said. "That's a critical question for Judge Roberts. Can he unite America for the future?"
Yes, you read that right: Kennedy has now turned the hurricane into a Supreme Court nomination issue.

Strangely enough, I don't see in Article III of the Constitution that the Supreme Court of the United States has any role in "uniting America" or any other exercise of political leadership. Silly me, I only see that the Supreme Court deals with matters of law. Perhaps Kennedy is reading from Robert Byrd's copy of the Constitution, the one that evidently provides for pork barrel projects in your home state at other states' expense?

And Kennedy's is a fine one to talk about "economic disparities." Next thing you know, he'll be criticizing old men who never had a hard-working job in their lives, and drunk drivers too. The one group he'll never criticize? Strong swimmers.

On his radio show Wednesday evening, Marc Levin suggested that John Kerry and Theresa "Shove it" Heinz-Kerry open up four of their five homes to Katrina refugees. How about you, Senator Ted? How about you, Senator Conrad? Instead of complaining about cuts in government social spending, why aren't you donating your own money to a charity of your choice?
In a letter to one Republican, Reid pressed for a wide-ranging investigation and asked: "How much time did the president spend dealing with this emerging crisis while he was on vacation? Did the fact that he was outside of Washington, D.C., have any effect on the federal government's response?"
Is Reid that much of a fool, or is he purposely mispresenting the technological power of the presidency? Bush may be "on vacation," but realistically you couldn't even call it a working one. If the rest of us experienced it, we'd call "working from home." Think Ted Kennedy going from a bar to a liquor store, because he wants to sober up.

It doesn't matter whether it's a Democrat or Republican in the White House: with the available communication and transportation abilities, the president's physical location is minimally important today. Even when FDR went to "Shangri-la" (Camp David), he had access to telephones, radio, teletype and even cryptographic equipment. See this for a glimpse of one of the people that makes it possible for Bush to be at his Crawford ranch, in the air, or at the White House, yet always have basically the same communications array at his disposal.

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