What happened to the racism in Katrina?

Posted: Feb 20, 2006 12:05 AM

The House released its investigative report on Hurricane Katrina this week, under the title "A Failure of Initiative." The report is an indictment of government failure at all levels federal, state and local.

In 379 pages, plus 141 appendices, the report documents government failure in major areas that, if handled better, could have reduced the death and damage caused by Katrina.

But it is also important to note what the report does not say. Nowhere is there any conclusion that the poor response resulted from racism.

We may recall, as the disaster in New Orleans was unfolding before our eyes, the allegations from Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others on the black left, that the poor response was racially motivated.

These allegations were, of course, absurd. I wrote then that this was a tragic case in point of the inherent inefficiencies in government. Yet, the baseless and inflammatory allegations of the usual black demagogues achieved their destructive objectives.

Jackson, Sharpton and others who play the same game are not and will not be deterred by the demonstrable absence of truth in their pronouncements. They know that truth is irrelevant to their objectives. Those objectives _ exploitation of a vulnerable black populace and getting coverage by media more interested in sensation than careful analysis _ are achieved by making preposterous claims. Validity of these claims doesn't enter into the equation.

We might simply ask how is it that Sharpton, whose initial claim to fame was the infamous Tawana Brawley scam, can continue to make clearly false allegations on racially sensitive issues and still be regularly invited to appear in the media and be interviewed as a serious analyst and commentator.

The damage that the Sharptons and Jacksons cause is twofold.

First, there is the damage of the allegations themselves. A poor, black population, with a history that is unquestionably defined by injustice, is fertile ground for demagogues. History and circumstance make these folks susceptible to claims that they suffer because of an inherently hostile and racist "establishment."

The result is empowerment of the demagogues Sharpton and Jackson get rich and powerful and the blacks they are talking to are driven deeper and deeper into a destructive funk defined by hate, hopelessness and dependence. The very mindset crucial to producing change and renewal faith, hope, personal responsibility is driven into oblivion by these politics of hate and blame.

Secondly, the demagogues promote ideas that are exactly the opposite of what blacks, or anyone, need. The Katrina debacle showed us, in the most tragic way, the limitations inherent in big government. Yet, despite the clarity of this picture, black politicians will continue to sell the idea that big government is the answer to black problems.

Let's recall that Katrina was the first big challenge faced by the Department of Homeland Security, created as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In true Washington fashion, the response to the 9/11 tragedy was a commission, a fat report and creation of a new bureaucracy. The newly created Homeland Security Department incorporated under one roof more than 20 former semiautonomous agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency with a total of 184,000 employees and a $40 billion budget.

USA Today reported a few days ago about the widespread fraud in the FEMA Expedited Assistance Program. This is the program whereby $2,000 payments are available to each household in the disaster area. According to USA Today investigators, FEMA records show that 481,624 households in the four affected Louisiana parishes have received payments; however, census data documents only 398,629 households living in these four parishes. The implied overpayment due to possible fraudulent claims amounts to $166 million.

Now that government has demonstrated failure in dealing with the disaster, Louisiana politicians want government to play a major role in the recovery. In response to local pressure (Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has threatened to try and block a federal sale of oil and gas leases off the Gulf Coast), Congress is appropriating another $30 billion over and above the $100 billion that it has already appropriated for rebuilding New Orleans.

Certainly, government has a legitimate role.

Creation of wealth and prosperity isn't part of that role. Private initiative is the only answer to black poverty and to rebuilding New Orleans. The only beneficiaries of government programs are politicians black and white.