Friday, September 16, 2005

Barbara hits the nail on the head

Recently the President's mother, Barbara Bush, came in for a lot of criticism for her comments on the victims of hurricane Katrina:
The former first lady, after touring the Astrodome complex in Houston on Monday, said: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." She commented during a radio interview.
At first, this does seem like a rather callous and out-of-touch comment to make, and the liberal-leftwing media was gleefully quoting it as proof that the Bushes are racists and don't care about poor people.
However Gerard Baker points out in the Times that this is nonsense and Barbara Bush is actually right:
Another lucky group of New Orleans evacuees has been housed not far from where I live in Washington at the DC Armoury, the local headquarters of the National Guard. This week, along with the truckloads of food, water and clothes, came something that will, in the longer term, be of even greater assistance, a group of eager employers looking for workers.
Forty-two local businesses participated in a job fair for the new homeless at the Armoury on Tuesday; more wanted to take part but couldn’t because there was limited space. Twenty of the 150 or so evacuees were hired on the spot. An official at the District of Columbia government involved in organising the event said that more were expected to be offered jobs in the next few days. The exercise was such a success that employers are demanding another one. If there’s anyone left still to hire it will take place in the next couple of weeks.
The story is being replicated across the country. The victims of Katrina are getting new opportunities. Some of it comes from an immense outpouring of compassion by Americans in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable contributions and unquantifiable help in housing families and schooling children. Some of it comes from the unsentimental compassion of the free market: the unerring capacity of the capitalist system to match those who have something with those who need it, whether it be labour, capital, goods or services.
Both tell us far more about the way this country works, the strengths of its values and people, than the bureaucratic bungling in Baton Rouge and Washington.
Of course you will almost certainly not have read or seen much about this, especially outside the US. The world has indicted America once again on charges of ineptitude and racism and has moved on to more important matters such as Britney Spears’s baby. For a variety of reasons this good news about the response of ordinary Americans is of little interest to the media. First, no self-respecting reporter wants to waste his time with insights into the better angels of human nature. No one ever won a Pulitzer or a Bafta recounting banal tales of man’s humanity to man.
Secondly, it really doesn’t fit too well into the stereotype that entrances most of the world these days. Anything that doesn’t show Americans as stupid, selfish, warmongering, religious bigots, half of them living in pampered luxury in garish purpose-built Italianate mansions, the other half downtrodden in the ghetto by Halliburton stock-owning fat-cats, isn’t going to make it to the front pages or the Ten O’Clock News.
This is the combination of American good will and market capitalism at its best. It is a shame that Europeans and assorted lefties are too biased, blind and desperate to score political points to see this inspiring phenomenon for what it is, an attitude that is exemplified by the (hopefully) outgoing German Chancellor's idiotic argument that the bureaucratic problems with the hurricane relief prove that more big-government would be a good thing.

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