Ted Rall on charities
The opinions expressed below are not necessarily those of the blogger, who has already made several donations to the Red Cross, but Ted Rall's point of view is always interesting and usually on target:
There's only one reason flood victims aren't getting help from the government: because the government refuses to help them. The Red Cross and its cohorts are letting lazy, incompetent and corrupt politicians off the hook, and so are their donors.
It's ridiculous, but people evidently need to be reminded that the United States is not only the world's wealthiest nation but the wealthiest society that has existed anywhere, ever. The U.S. government can easily pick up the tab for people inconvenienced by bad weather--if helping them is a priority. That goes double for Katrina, a disaster caused by the government's conscious decision to eliminate the $50 million pittance needed to improve New Orleans' levees.
For our leaders the optional war against Iraq is such a priority, which the
Congressional Budget Office expects to cost $600 billion by 2010. That's four or five Katrinas right there. (That's also where the levee money went.) Because rich people are always a political priority, their taxes have been slashed by $4 trillion over a decade--the equivalent of 32 Katrinas. So worried are our public servants about the tax burden placed on the rich that they're looking out for rich dead people. This is why they've gutted the estate tax that, at a cost of $75 billion annually, will run half a Katrina a year. Trickle-down economists beginning with Milton Friedman shout "starve the beast," but while the social programs are put on a diet, the mean and powerful pig out more than ever.
Disaster relief is too important to be left to private fundraisers, with their self-sustaining fundraising expenses, administrative overhead (nine percent for the Red Cross) and their parochial, often religious, agendas. It's also way too expensive. In the final analysis, after the floodwaters have receded and the poor neighborhoods of New Orleans have been razed under eminent domain, major charities will be lucky if they've managed to raise one percent of the total cost of Katrina.
Granted, in terms of popularity of likelihood of success, trying to make a case against giving money to charities compares to lobbying against puppies. The impulse to donate, after all, is rooted in our best human traits. As we watched New Orleanians die of thirst, disease and anarchic violence in the face of Bush Administration disinterest and local government incompetence, millions of us did the only thing we thought we could to do to help: cut a check or click a PayPal button. Tragically, that generosity feeds into the mindset of the sinister ideologues who argue that government shouldn't help people--the very mindset that caused the levee break that turned Katrina into a holocaust and led to official unresponsiveness. And it is already setting the stage for the next avoidable disaster.
It's time to "starve the beast": private charities used by the government to justify the abdication of its duties to its citizens.