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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

OP-ED: The Dark Side of Katrina

Published: September 23, 2005
Section: Opinions

During orientation, baskets were passed around to collect money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. A triumphant email one day later announced that we had raised over $1400 for the cause. In the grand scheme of things, $1400 isnt that much money, but it is a lot to ask a group of new first-years reaching into their pockets on the spur of the moment to donate.

By contrast, the Government of the United States is arguably the richest institution in the entire world. Governing the second richest country in the world in per capita income (after Luxemberg), one would assume that our government could reach into its pockets and pull out more than spare change, but a solution. Unfortunately, such a solution has yet to come.

The situation has actually gotten to the point that President Bush has started asking foreign countries for food, supplies and money. This might seem like a logical step for you, but I found it a bit perplexing. As the second-richest nation in the world, shouldnt we be able to handle a problem of this magnitude without outside help?

That isnt meant to sound arrogant, but with almost 50% more wealth per citizen than our European allies, one would think wed have money to spare. Alan from Herefordshire commented to the BBC, I will not be giving to this appeal. The United States is the richest country in the history of the modern world. They should be diverting their wealth into domestic social care programs not into imposing their economic will on the rest of the world.

I cant say those feelings were that far from my mind when I saw those collection baskets rolling around. Paying around $160,000 for my college education doesnt exactly leave me with the feeling that I have a ton of money to be donating to people in need. Not only that, but I felt that this was really the governments domain and that the US government has plenty of money to combat such a tragedy. I mean, we are spending $177 million per day in Iraq. Comparatively, this should be a pittance and much less of a burden on the government than on me.

Is the US government just cheap when it comes to disasters? Maybe. After the tsunami in Asia, the US government pledged a paltry $15 million. That amount was raised to $350 million after great outcry, but it still pales in comparison to the $2 billion that the EU bloc sent (and the EU isnt even as rich as the United States is).

Maybe the US just prefers to let private organizations take charge in these situation (such as the Red Cross) as well as ordinary citizens like you and me. Maybe President Bush is waiting for us to take the initiative. Maybe, rather than being a test of our government, this is a test of our personal moral character. Maybe the victims dont give a shit about our moral character and just want to be fed, now.