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While there is plenty of blame to go around for what went wrong in the lead-up to and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it is not a particular person or particular agency that fell down.  It is our very notion of government itself that has failed.

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Our Concept Of Government Has Failed Us

Our Concept Of Government Has Failed Us

 

While there is plenty of blame to go around for what went wrong in the lead-up to and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it is not a particular person or particular agency that fell down.  It is our very notion of government itself that has failed.

 

We have all heard the heart-wrenching frustrations surrounding the aftermath of Katrina.  We have seen Americans of all backgrounds voicing their dismay and shock over the failure of government to timely and adequately respond.  We have read the many mind-numbing accounts of people, including infants and children, being left behind in a desolated city.  We cringe at the horrific and soul-searing thought of those helpless frail nursing home residents who perished before rescuers could get to them.

 

How could this have happened to us - in the richest nation on earth?  Part of the answer lies in the fact that far too many people have abandoned their civic responsibilities to those on the right and the left where political games of "gotcha" predominate, and where civil discourse, rational compromise and essential cooperation are sorely lacking.  For far too long we have tolerated the formulation and implementation of public policy based on what vested interests and their lobbyists want rather than what is best for the country.  As a political commentator said recently, "public policy is about our lives."

 

Another part of the answer lies in the fact that too many of us have supported a system of low taxation and "smaller government."  It is because we have sneered at "big government" and believed that private corporations can do it all better.

 

Katrina blew home the point that we all must collectively pay for essential governmental services.  The view that the government should be there when we need it but someone else should pay for it puts us all at peril.

 

While we can take pride in the wealth of America, wealth alone can never secure the blessings we once believed wealth could secure.  We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We all are dependent upon the same health care system.  Yes, it is true the wealthy few can afford to live beyond high concentrations of air pollution, drink bottled water, and fly off to far away places for high-priced, personalized health care.  But, all of us, including the wealthy few, are still subject to the whims of mother-nature.

 

More to the point I wish to make, according to published reports, America finishes first in wealth but last in quality of life.  Among the richest countries, others have a lower per capita income than the United States but more than a few of these same countries also have a higher literacy level, a longer life span, and fewer people living in poverty.

 

Do we not care that the citizens of Iceland and any one of a number of other countries get demonstrably better health care than we do in America?  Do we not care that the United States has more people below the poverty line than 26 other countries? Does it not bother us that the divide between rich and poor in America is notable compared to our peer countries? One look at the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina and only a blind man would miss the point of a major racial divide and a link to poverty.

 

Ask yourself whether you would be willing to pay more taxes if you were guaranteed a higher quality of life, better schools for our children, good and timely medical care, a longer actual life span, and, most imminently, disaster relief and protection when it is needed.

 

So what's the deal? How long will it take us to learn what other countries take for granted? Of the 18 most highly-developed nations, America ranks second-to-last in taxes. If we want a high quality of life, we as a nation must provide a high level of core services and those core services must be funded by you and me.

 

Some people believe that government should provide less infrastructure and that people who accumulate wealth through hard work and sacrifice will be able to privately pay for what an emaciated government does not. This view appeals to that age-old archetype of American rugged individualism and self-reliance. Proponents of this view see it as the high moral ground of hard work equaling a higher standard of living.

 

Now, we see the tangible and horrific consequences of a nation that has swung way too far in avoiding collective responsibility in favor of individual responsibility. There is a balance that must be achieved.

 

A nation should not and cannot be provider of everything to every person, but we can and we must do better.  No one person or agency has failed us. Our own idea of government has failed us. Now is the time, while the winds have turned people around, to commit to the notion that all things governmental are not evil, to acknowledge that the government must be there to provide us with what only the government can provide, and to develop a culture of collective responsibility in paying for it.

 

We can still be a country of rugged individualism, where those who work hard have unlimited possibilities for success.  But these ideals must be balanced with the core values of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that was so evidently denied to so many Americans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.


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1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529

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Phone: (618) 985-4529