Thursday, October 06, 2005

Entitled to your "fair share"?

Not since Clinton's 1992 campaign has "fair share" been so misused. How can someone's "share" be "fair" when it comes from money that was forcibly taken, i.e. coerced, from others? How is it morally justifiably that someone can be given a "fair share" and live for 18 months at everyone else's expense? How does anyone justify being entitled to the labor and production of others?
FEMA free grant program ends; was it fair?
'Expedited assistance' $2,000 payments to Katrina victims stopped quietly


Is everyone getting their fair share of FEMA hurricane recovery funds?

Already, FEMA has given away a staggering amount of money to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- nearly $2 billion to 850,000 people, according to figures provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency's Eugene Kinerney. And much more aid is probably on the way. Victims are eligible to receive up to $26,200 based on a means test, enough for 18 months of living expenses according to government calculations, FEMA says.

With that much money being doled out, there's bound to be criticism.

There were those $2,000 pre-loaded debit cards provided in the week after Hurricane Katrina hit in September. Distribution of the cards led to long lines and much frustration. The debit cards were discontinued after about 10,000 were issued, and they were replaced by direct-deposit electronic transfers. But quietly last week, FEMA cut off all of its no-strings attached instant grants to Katrina victims. The news had some people wondering: Were some victims left out?

"These monies are used for food, diapers, medicines, and other essential items. For FEMA to cut off these funds now is unacceptable," said Congressman William Jefferson, D-LA. "FEMA should reinstate the ... program immediately until all qualified individuals receive the money to which they are entitled."

No strings attached

Immediately after Katrina made landfall, FEMA began giving out the no-strings-attached $2,000 cash payments in a program called "expedited assistance." The money could be spent on anything the victims chose. But those Katrina victims who haven't gotten their cash payments yet are out of luck. Expedited assistance was cut off on Sept. 26, FEMA said.

Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat in the House Committee on Homeland Security, issued a scathing press release.

"The execution of FEMA's Expedited Assistance program after Hurricane Katrina has been marred by error since it was announced," Thompson wrote. "Soon after the program began, it was abruptly cancelled, only to be reactivated. Evacuees were forced to wait in daylong lines, only to be turned away when funds in certain locations ran out...Cutting off emergency survival funds for those in need is a sign of the incompetent and bureaucratic Department of Homeland Security at work."An aid at Thompson's office said it wasn't fair that the assistance was cut off without announcement, creating a confusing situation where some victims got their $2,000 and others didn't -- with no list of rules explaining why....

But those who did not receive a $2,000 payout may still get a fair shake, insisted Kinerney. He said all hurricane victims are entitled to that maximum total assistance of $26,200. Victims who didn't take anything in the first slice can get more later on, he said. In the end, everyone is entitled to the same assistance, based on their ability to pay -- a means test that includes current income, insurance payments, and other factors....

Expedited assistance may be gone, but the agency has moved into a second phase of aid specifically targeting housing. The program is called THAP, or Transitional Housing Assistance Program. Victims get $2,358 to pay three months of rent or hotel charges, Kinerney said. The amount is calculated from average living expenses for three months around the country.

Victims can continue to get housing grants for 18 months, he said, as long as they provide receipts proving the money was spent on housing....

[Rep. Thompson said] "Once again the FEMA devotion to bureaucracy has trumped common sense. When are they going to throw away their old playbook and figure out how to actually help people?"
Thompson is correct, except not in the way he thinks. The same goes for the "reporter," whose piece is a thinly disguised op-ed column of statist advocacy. If FEMA really wanted to help people, then considering how inefficient it's been with everyone else's money, how about it find ways to prevent Louisiana and Mississippi from obstructing private relief efforts, like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and Southern Baptist volunteers?

Unbelievably, we still have this mythos about the $2000 debit cards. From the time of the initial announcement, I predicted fraud and abuse, and McQ of Q&O proved that I was right. Rep. William Jefferson, with the sympathetic author's assistance, can allege all he wants that people can't afford the various items he enumerated. But all his claims, no matter how hard he and the article writer ignore the facts, cannot undo how the debit cards were used to pay for strippers, Louis Vitton handbags and other things not essential to basic life. Would you give a charitable donation to someone if you knew he or she would spend it foolishly? Of course not, so why give cash to people who are too tempted to spend it wisely?

Louisiana's members of Congress want the cards reinstated, not because they were inefficiently helping people, but because government programs' success is measured by pure numbers, not results. And why not push to use as much money as you can, when it's not your own that you're spending? There's no incentive for government bureaucrats to spend wisely, let alone develop a real method to determine who truly needs help.

"Fair share"..."fair shake"..."entitled"...and some apparently feel more "entitled" than others. Predictably, a small number of people are being caught scamming relief services. While this is the Red Cross and not government, it still demonstrates that one of American society's biggest problems is that belief that we're "entitled" to taxpayer help.
9 charged with stealing Katrina relief in Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO - Nine people were charged with bilking the Red Cross of at least $25,000 donated for Hurricane Katrina victims, the FBI said Tuesday.

Four suspects were contract workers at a Red Cross national call center in Bakersfield, said U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott. The other five allegedly picked up checks they weren't entitled to.

"This is very much an ongoing case," Scott said. "We are probably going to wind up with a lot more people charged."

The Red Cross said it set up the national call center in Bakersfield for Hurricane Katrina victims seeking assistance. Operators provide qualifying victims with a personal identification number they then present to receive funds from Western Union.

"The bad guys would call their buddies and give them PIN numbers," Scott said. "Sometimes they'd just call with unused PIN numbers. Sometimes they'd give a victim a PIN number and turn around and call a buddy with the same PIN, and there'd be a race to Western Union."

Each suspect is charged with wire fraud.

The Red Cross contacted the FBI after it performed an audit of the call center and discovered "that way too many people in Bakersfield were getting aid," Scott said.
Forgotten are the people who won't need to engage in wire fraud to get money that they're not entitled to, that they don't necessarily need. Call me a cold-hearted bastard, but when adversity strikes, you have to accept it and work hard to overcome. Let others see your efforts so they can have pity on you; don't just sit back and demand that the government steal from your neighbors so that it can pay for your housing for 18 months.

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