Katrina Proof That Big Government Isn’t the Answer
- 1 September 2006 by Author 0 Comments
Katrina Proof That Big Government Isn’t the Answer
By Richard Larsen
Published 9/1/06 – Idaho State Journal
As we recognize the anniversary of hurricane Katrina this week, a new round of accusations and finger-pointing has already ensued. Certainly there were multitudinous bureaucratic failures leading up to the hurricane, and even more following the crisis. There is ample blame to be passed around to all levels of government that should afford us some lessons to be learned.
First order of business from a bureaucratic failure is to assign culpability to some other bureaucracy. This process played out stupendously as Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans, and Kathleen Blanco, Governor of Louisiana, immediately ascribed blame to FEMA, even though FEMA had for several days been trying to establish a dialogue with them.
The governors of Mississippi and Alabama were in almost constant communication with FEMA and the White House 48 hours prior to the storm making landfall. Governor Blanco vowed to “get back” to FEMA, and didn’t until after the storm had already decimated New Orleans. Mayor Nagin, despite his assurances of helping citizens evacuate failed to provide the means whereby it could be done, as typified by the now infamous pictures of parked school buses mired in several feet of water.
Even though the physical destruction from the storm itself was comparable in Biloxi and New Orleans, although on a different scale, Biloxi had negligible problems dealing with FEMA.
Observe the differences between how evacuation and recovery efforts were rather efficiently implemented in Mississippi and Alabama, versus how inept they were in Louisiana. The abject incompetence of Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and of Governor Blanco of Louisiana led to unreturned calls to Director Brown of FEMA, and even to the White House, while the Louisiana officials assumed a “wait and see” posture in anticipation of the hurricane.
FEMA only employs about 2,600. They are facilitators during times of crisis. They have some people on the scene to help implement the state and municipal evacuation and crisis management plans, but the locals are still in charge. The assistance, aid, and relief efforts are all funneled through state and local officials. If they’re asleep at the wheel, it’s near impossible for FEMA to do what it’s supposed to do.
New Orleans is first and foremost the utter failure of generation after generation of the entitlement mentality. We see how large bureaucracies that grow ever larger year after year cannot handle crises like Katrina. We also see that the failure of government programs only leads to more proposals for more big government, after congressional hearings into such governmental failures serve only one apparent purpose: to further enlarge themselves, compounding our bureaucratic problems.
The party of biggest government (they both seem to be for big government these days!) has been in control of Louisiana for decades. If government is truly the answer for all our challenges, Katrina should have been a cakewalk. It should stand as an example of the penultimate in governmental solutions. Instead, the local and state governments proved inept in the face of such crises.
Anecdotal evidence illustrates the different attitudes of the people of Mississippi and Louisiana as well. Thousands of people who took vacations so they could help in the aftermath have testified how proactive the people of Mississippi and Alabama were in clean-up efforts, while those of New Orleans in particular were in large part sitting around waiting for the government to rescue them. Meanwhile, the victims in Mississippi and Alabama were aggressively helping themselves and others during the cleanup. The difference seems to be at least in part, the mentality and philosophical disposition of the victims.
This is powerful evidence of the failure of the entitlement mentality; that government is the panacea of all that ails society.
Contrast the performance of Ray Nagin with Rudy Guiliani during the 9/11 attacks. Guiliani was everywhere, even during the crisis he was at ground zero. He was proactive, solving problems, making decisions, directing rescue and later, cleanup efforts. He was virtually omnipresent during the crisis. Nagin? AWOL. Blanco? Must have been with Nagin: also AWOL. Was Guiliani the President? No, he was a mayor! And an incredibly good one, at that. Nagin should have attended the Guiliani School of Municipal Leadership.
Does the President bear some blame in all this? Absolutely. He is ultimately responsible for any failures at the Federal level. But individuals within the government have the responsibility to do their jobs, and former FEMA director Mike Brown resigned over his failures at the helm of FEMA. By far, however, the blame lies on Blanco and Nagin.
The bottom line is, not to depend on government. People have to assume responsibility for themselves. If and when the government shows up, the possibility of an amelioration of the crisis is possible, but not immediately likely. Nor is it assured. With government, as with investments, guarantees are few and far between.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.