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
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
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
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
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 an 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.
(Star Parker is author of “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big
Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do about It” and
president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education,