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November 07, 2006


Strange that someone would use Katrina as an example on the effectiveness of private charity when it, along with the Northridge earthquake as a counter-example, will become the textbook case for the necessity of having a government that works. Katrina clearly demonstrates the inadequacy of private charity to deal with large scale disasters and ongoing needs. Private charity is great for filling in niche areas but would be totally inadequate without a publically financed safety net.

The notion that "Christians understand the Biblical commands to be the responsibility of the church, not the government" is a secular ideological construct and has no inherent basis in Christian theology.

"The notion that "Christians understand the Biblical commands to be the responsibility of the church, not the government" is a secular ideological construct and has no inherent basis in Christian theology."

Alan, what the @#!! are you talking about?

Yes, Alan, I'm also confused by your last sentence. The sentence you quoted is a statement about what Christians believe about what the Bible teaches -- how is that not a theological statement? Further, maybe you could explain what conclusions you mean for us to draw from that.

However, I do agree with you (at least in part) on this, Alan -- there are some needs that are so immediate and large in scale that there is a need of governmental response, simply due to the central organization and structure of command, personnel, and equipment already in-place. I think you perhaps overstate your case by indicating that "private charity" can only fill "niche" needs. I'm sure our city is not alone in having several large-scale (non-governmental) food distribution and shelter organizations for the homeless and needy. Just one of them gives out 500,000 meals every year and houses hundreds of people in temporary shelter every night.

What i mean is that the "how" of the Biblical injunctions to help the needy is going to be driven by ones political outllook. An ideological conservative is going to see a governmental role as unnecessary. An ideological leftist is going to want a government program for every possible need. A pragmatic person (aka a "liberal") is goinh to see a role for government and for the private sector including churches.

Paul, I think the efforts you describe are great and important but even at the scale you describe fulfill only a small part of the total needs in our society.

I still maintain that only the government can hanle some things. I go back to my experience in Utah a few years ago. I went through a small town on the Colorado Plateau and stopped at the local supermarket. A group of teenaged girls were having a bake sale to benefit a local family who had just had a premature baby. There is no way that they would have been able to cover, or come close to, the total costs involved. Good for them, but things like this should be handled with some form of national health insurance.


Yes, I remember you telling that story. Don't you think it's a bit patronizing to compare a couple girls' bake-sale to the city-wide efforts to feed and house homeless people?

I'm not sure what you mean by "national health insurance", but it sounds to me like I'm footing the bill for someone else's insurance. Communism still doesn't work. This isn't the government's role. If that's not what you meant, maybe you can elaborate.

My other concern with these things being more under the oversight of government is that government is traditionally quite inefficient with funds. So, the money they took from me by force to redistribute to others, doesn't get used to its full potential.

I'd like you to consider this thought: the reason the girls' bake-sale is valuable is not only for the meager funds they will provide to the mammoth medical bill, but to train them (and others) in the way of giving and helping those in need. We do this in our churches -- kids give to the offering even though we know full well that their coins don't really change much in the church's ledger. We do this because people don't just wake up one day when they have a career and decide it's a good idea to give to the church and to charity.

"Franklin Graham and Samaritan's Purse was helping Darfur before it was cool."

clever! AND christians have been adopting african babies for decades too, before THAT was cool!

does anyone happen to know stats for adoptive parents, how many proclaim christianity?

dang..I think that the feds ROYALLY messed up Katrina. That is not the issue.

Everyday ppl came out to support and help their fellow bro/sis. I believe that all people gave...race, creed, religion. I am not even talking charitible organizations.

I have worked with many...who have the spirit to give and they do. They are kindhearted, loving people who help one another. Everyday, struggling ppl who have give.

I have worked for THE STATE and others, but the hearts of those who believe and know...are the ones who make a difference.

Hi Kelly,

I think portions of the government dropped the ball in the aftermath of Katrina, but it wasn't the feds. They stepped in when it was clear the local and state governments (whose responsibility it was) weren't going to.

The second part of your response: "I believe that all people gave...race, creed, religion. I am not even talking charitible organizations." This is exactly the point -- Americans gave to help other Americans, and this is how it should be done. However, all those people you mentioned gave to some charity that then did some work. (BTW, this is still qualified as mentioned by Alan and me, that some events are so large and catastrophic that they require governmental intervention.)

Paul, where do you get your information? There is no way state and local agencies could ever deal with an event the size of Katrina. That is why FEMA was created. Katrina was a huge failure of the Bush Administration. I suggest you read Joe Allbaugh's testimony during his confirmation hearing in 2001. FEMA over-responded in Florida in 2004; Chertoff and Bush seem to be the culprits in New orleans. Of course it would help if FEMA had been headed by a disaster professional.

The Feds were in charge from the beginning and dropped the ball. Whatever source gave you your information was simply wrong.

Recall that FEMA worked just fine after the Northridge earthquake. Under Clinton's FEMA director, James Lee Witt - a disaster professional - Governor Wilson and Mayor Riordan everyone worked together.

Our medical costs are the highest in the industrialized word and we get less for our money than any other industrialized nation. the proper base for health services is the whole nation. Breaking up that base into many thousands of pools and millions of individuals simply creates inefficiences that result in poor out comes.

Not all government services are delivered inefficiently. That is simply a conservative myth. We need a mix of private and public activities. My point with the bake sale was that is no way a small town can ever absorb the disasters that can befall the individuals in that town.

Paul, I just found this post over at Sullivan's blog. While it quotes Limbaugh, it is also true of all the conservative radio hosts out there and I was hearing similar comments from Medved, Prager, et al.


I'm sorry I don't feel great sympathy for the legions of conservative commentators who kept drinking and spewing the Bush Kool-Aid, knowing full well it had nothing to do with conservatism, until they are now forced to reveal the truth. Here's an amazing quote from Rush Limbaugh yesterday:

"There have been a bunch of things going on in Congress, some of this legislation coming out of there that I have just cringed at, and it has been difficult coming in here, trying to make the case for it when the people who are supposedly in favor of it can't even make the case themselves - and to have to come in here and try to do their jobs."

All together now: Awwww. I'm so sorry Limbaugh had to lie through his teeth to try and keep in the good graces of his Republican masters. Have you ever heard of intellectual honesty, Mr Limbaugh? You can look it up in the dictionary."

Oh my...I am not certain that everyone involved with the Katrina aftermath DID contribute to a charitable organization...that isn't true. I saw everyday people opening their homes, offering jobs, helping with rescue and assisting in the clean up. I didn't see dollars attached to their actions. Perhaps our definition of charity is differently defined.

The system did fail. You can call it the state, the feds, bush, failed. I agree and hope that a better preparedness can be achieved out of such a tragic event. I also agree that there should be a governing body that oversees that type of devastation. I just think they should be better organized and equipped is all.

Kelly, the first step in solving a problem is a candid analysis no matter how unpleasant that may be. It is easy to paper things over with a "everyone is to b;ame" but the record here is clear. We knew a hurricane was heading towards the New Orleans area and that it was likely to be a force 3 at minimum. We have the tape of Bush being briefed well before landfall. We have the communications from the Governor. We knew that a force 5 hitting New Orleans would be problematic. We know what FEMA can do from past experience. We know from the Congressional Record that the Administration sought to downgrade the ability of FEMA to act in disasters. We know that the Homeland Security Bill was passed without adequate analysis. We know that Chertoff was being the perfect obstructing bureaucrat.

This is a simple fix: Restore FEMA to a Cabinet level position. Adopt a view of FEMA's role in which policy trumps ideology and competence trumps party patronage.

It is a disgrace that in a nation as wealthy as ours we wound up doing the equivalent of a bake sale as a major city was devastated.

Hi Alan,
The state told the feds to stay out! The feds stepped in when it was obvious that the state wasn't going to get it done. It wasn't Bush's place to make unilateral decisions about the issue until this became clear. Where do *you* get *your* information? I do agree the FEMA leadership didn't have an acceptable level of appropriate expertise.

I never said "all" governments are inefficient, but it should be obvious that when you add levels of bureaucracy, you are going to add additional overhead. You can wave it away as "myth" if you like, but I can wave away your take just as easily, and we're no further along.

You are correct, I should have more carefully considered my comment. There *were* people that gave in a non-monetary way. I think the number of people in a position to offer that kind of aid are quite fewer in number than those that can offer monetary aid to organizations with the personnel and structure already in-place to respond to such needs.

"The system did fail. You can call it the state, the feds, bush, failed."

It didn't work as well as it could have, but it didn't "fail." The place was hit by the third-strongest hurricane on record to make land. "How could this happen in America?" I heard people say. Because we're still at the whim of the forces of nature, and we don't have magical wands. Go read:

"I also agree that there should be a governing body that oversees that type of devastation."
There is. The way things are laid out is that it starts at a local level and works its way up, with governments responding and requesting assistance from higher levels as necessary.

"I just think they should be better organized and equipped is all." The biggest problem seemed to be with the communication between the agencies. As an example, my brother was down there with FEMA, and the local police flat prevented them from entering areas (under penalty of arrest).

Hi Paul, would you give us your sources? Here is what seems to have happened:
there is much misinformation out there. I found many timelines to be out of whack.

"Blanco asks President Bush to declare a State of Emergency for the state of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina. Bush does so, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts…" and freeing up federal money for the state."

"The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing."

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