MANY PEOPLE think conservatives, especially the American kind, are a mean-spirited, selfish bunch of misanthropists, irredeemably opposed to public spending on anything other than tanks and prisons.
They should talk to Abby, bartender at the Baby Dolls Strip Club in Houston. A week after Hurricane Katrina had relocated thousands of New Orleans residents to Houston, Fema, the much-maligned federal agency responsible for dealing with the crisis, decided it would be a good idea to hand out debit cards with a value of $2,000 to the displaced to buy necessities.
There were virtually no restrictions on the use of the cards and so the definition of “necessities” acquired some latitude. Louis Vuitton did a roaring trade in handbags in the Houston area and a good deal was dropped, as it were, at some of the city’s finest adult entertainment establishments.
Interviewed by a reporter for the local TV station, Abby over at Baby Dolls said she had seen many clients using their debit cards. She had nothing but praise for this exercise in government largesse. “A lot of customers have been coming in from Louisiana and they’ve been real happy about the $1.75 beers and they’re really nice.” It was only fair, she added that they should get a little publicly funded help. “You lost your whole house, then, why not?” she said. “You might want some beer in a strip club. There are a lot of guys out there that like to do that.”
Indeed. It may not be the kind of relief that most Republicans were thinking of when they voted through $50 billion in spending on the devastated region, but I can’t think of a more compassionate conservatism than one that pays for a Budweiser and a lap dance with somebody else’s money.
The moral here is that giving money indiscriminately invites abuse, no matter how lofty the intentions behind the giving are. And I hope that the following isn't taken as blaming the victim, but many of the evacuees from the Superdome and Convention Center have made many poor decisions in their lives. If what Gerard Baker has noted is true, that tendency for some of them is still in place. It's hard to put your life back together when your priorities aren't in order. The road to hell is paved with good intentions - an old saw of a saying, but dead-on accurate. Democrats have long ago succumbed to the belief that having good intentions in and of itself makes you a virtuous person, even if actions based on those intentions fail to deliver results. I hope that Republicans don't fall into the same trap. In the case of the lap dances, the Empress has no clothes - literally! ;-)
UPDATE #1: Jonah Goldberg:
A great many liberals in recent weeks have argued that conservative hostility to big government suggests we don't support agencies like FEMA or fire and rescue services. This is nonsense. Every conservative I know wants firemen to put out fires. We don't, however, want firemen asking us how our marriage is going or lecturing us about how to be more "sensitive." A fireman can't put out the fires at my house if he's at your house giving you a big hug.
Ultimately, this is the core problem with all ideologies that try to make government an extension of the family. Welfare-state liberalism wants the government to act like your mommy. Compassionate conservatives want the state to be your daddy. The problem: Government cannot love you, nor should it try.
UPDATE #2: Tom Coburn(R, OK) and Barack Obama(D, IL), US Senators, discuss the need for oversight of the funds appropriated for rebuilding after Katrina here. One tidbit of information that I learned from their article:
After September 11, 2001, when the Small Business Administration was directed to help New York businesses get back on their feet, it was later discovered SBA provided loans to a South Dakota country radio station, a Virgin Islands perfume shop and a Utah dog boutique -- none of which were affected by that day's terrorist attacks.
Kind of makes lap dances not look too bad!
UPDATE #3: Federal Dollars won't make New Orleans great, according to Daniel Henninger:
What is New Orleans today? It is the impoverished, lawless product of Huey Long's anti-capitalist populism, cross-fertilized with every poverty program Washington produced the past 60 years. The currently popular notion that "the country" somehow failed to notice that much of New Orleans had become a social and economic basket case is false. Every college student knows the basic storyline of "All the King's Men" if not that of former Governor Edwin Edwards (1992-96), now serving 10 years for extorting businessmen.
New Orleans needs an exemption from the politics and policies of the past 40 years. In a disaster equal to the hurricane's devastation of New Orleans, the federal welfare system eroded the life of the city's poorest families at the same time the schools were failing to educate them. Why should the poorest people of New Orleans have to return to their catastrophic schools? Where is the morality in a system that would do that?
Or, to paraphrase Lt. General Russel Honore, "Don't get stuck on stupid!"
Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.