10/06 The Politics Of Disaster

The Politics Of Disaster
Larry Pratt

Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster; the subsequent manmade mess was an even bigger disaster.

It becomes clear from Marvin Olasky’s account in The Politics of Disaster that most of the mess was not the fault of the hurricane but that of government officials at all levels.

The dependency mentality that expects government to take care of all of our problems paralyzed many of the hurricane victims themselves as well as local politicians such as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

There was a time in America when even huge disasters were understood to be best handled at the local level. Such was the case with relief efforts following the enormous death and destruction of the great Chicago fire of 1871 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, actually vetoed a congressional attempt to put the federal nose into the cleanup efforts of a local disaster in 1887. Cleveland expressed the hope that private charity would provide the $10,000 appropriated by Congress for seed needed in drought-stricken West Texas. Indeed, over $100,000 came in from private donors — and the media applauded Cleveland’s actions while calling for private relief.

Last year, the Katrina press corps had wet pants, and not just from the hurricane. The media simply lost it and reported every rumor, each telling of worse tragedy than the one before. They simply did not do their work as reporters — they did not check out their information.

The despicable job of the media made the government’s response even worse. Relief efforts were delayed while waiting for the National Guard to deploy — as they took extra time, thinking they were needed to secure a battle zone. Had the Guard simply gone in to help rescue people right away, the storm’s impact would have been much reduced. But the media was telling of raging gun battles in the streets and bodies being stacked up at the Superdome and the Convention Center.

It turned out that one person had died of a heart attack in the Superdome, but there were absolutely no dead bodies at the Convention Center. Yet a year later, Fox’s Crybaby-in-Chief, Shepherd Smith, insisted that there were stacks of bodies there and he knew it “for a fact.” Smith should have checked with the police and with the coroner. He obviously did neither.

Local, state and federal governments all had plans. The plans were apparently expected to self-execute. When the water hit the fan, so to speak, the plans were not worth the paper they were written on. What did work was the private sector, whether it was companies such as Wal-mart, or charities such as Samaritan’s Purse (but NOT the Red Cross which is inefficient and dishonest, Olasky found), or individual churches providing resources and personnel or private persons. The private sector acted on its own without any government direction — often in spite of government misdirection.

Two days into the post storm disaster, Mayor Nagin was asked what he was doing to handle the crisis. He affirmed that he was making a list — for the federal government to take care of. He had no idea about doing anything himself (other than moving his family out of town).

Gun owners suffered because of the media-government dishonesty and incompetence. The attitude that pervaded government relief “plans” was that only the government (pick a level) was supposed to be in charge. Anybody else was to stay out until the government told them what to do. The “people-are-the-problem” view was applied even more so to gun owners.

It was the “us vs. them” mentality that led National Guard troops, California Highway Patrolmen and U.S. Marshals (under the U.S. Justice Department) to enthusiastically confiscate private firearms per Mayor Nagin’s and Police Commissioner Eddie Compass’ edict. (Compass left town rather quickly after the water receded when it turned out that his police department had a lot of ghost officers getting paid — he was just another crook for gun control.)

The good news is that several states have passed laws making it clear that it is illegal for the authorities to take away people’s guns during emergencies (unless, of course, they are engaged in criminal activity). Congress has the same.

None of this would have happened if we still were a country where individuals and the private sector were viewed as capable of taking care of themselves — even during an emergency. The government nanny philosophy leads to relief efforts that deepen people’s agony and, often, are soaked with extensive corruption. Government nannyism also leads to a frenzied drive to disarm the citizenry.

The politics of disaster has an obvious solution. We the People need to tell the government to get out. Armed people can take care of themselves, including fending off (non-government) looters. Those same armed people can provide the safe environment for private relief workers to do their jobs without getting hogtied by the government. If this were done, the police would be available to provide rescue services rather than jeopardizing the citizenry by stealing their guns.