New Orleans reveals vulnerability of the US

Mark Steyn refuses to be partial in his blaming, and gives all the authorities an equal lashing in this week’s column. He argues that it proves the authorities have neither learned nor listened to any of the lessons of 11th September 2001.

PS Reader Groucho recommends Lionel Shriver, with a view from an American abroad.

One thing that became clear two or three months after “the day that everything changed” is that nothing changed — that huge swathes of the political culture in America remain committed to a bargain that stiffs the people at every level, a system of lavish funding of pseudo-action. You could have done as the anti-war left wanted and re-allocated every dollar spent in Iraq to Louisiana. Or you could have done as some of the rest of us want and re-allocated every buck spent on, say, subsidizing Ted Turner’s and Sam Donaldson’s play-farming activities. But, in either case, I’ll bet Louisiana’s kleptocrat public service would have pocketed the dough and carried on as usual — and, come the big day, the state would still have flopped out, and New Orleans’ foul-mouthed mayor would still be ranting about why it was all everybody’s else fault.

Those levees broke; they failed. And you think about Chicago and San Francisco and Boston and you wonder what’s waiting to fail there. The assumption was that after 9/11, big towns and small took stock and identified their weak points. That’s what they told us they were doing, and that’s what they were getting big bucks to do. But in New Orleans no one had a plan that addressed levee failure, and no one had a plan for the large percentage of vehicleless citizens who’d be unable to evacuate, and no one had a plan to deal with widespread looting. Given that all these local factors are widely known — New Orleans is a below-sea-level city with high crime and a low rate of automobile ownership — it makes you wonder how the city would cope with something truly surprising — like, say, a biological attack.

Oh, well, maybe the 9/11 commission can rename themselves the Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, America’s enemies will draw many useful lessons from the events of this last week. Will America?

  • 6cprod

    Steynonline is a must-read website for entertaining and factual reporting. As usual, in his article he doesn’t miss his target and hit the barn door. It’s good to see a bit of balanced reporting on this chaotic time in the US. Nice change from the torrent of Bush-hating drivel we have been subjected to over the past week or so.

  • groucho

    “Welfare culture is bad not just because, as in Europe, it’s bankrupting the state, but because it enfeebles the citizenry, it erodes self-reliance and resourcefulness.”

    Pass the sick bag Alice. Take a look at the scenes from New Orleans – the old, the sick and the poor left are the ones left to die in the swamps….surprise, surprise most of them are black. this is what happens to a society which believes in the survival of the fittest and makes welfare a dirty word. You can keep your John Wayne frontiersman attitudes – give me Aneurin Bevan and the culture of helping the poor any day.

  • Henry94

    groucho

    this is what happens to a society which believes in the survival of the fittest and makes welfare a dirty word

    We have short memories. It is only two years since thousands of the old and poor died in France because of a heat wave. Much of the same kinds of accusations of inaction were made against the French government as are now being made against that in the US.

    The unprecedented heat wave in Europe has caused many deaths across the continent, but the highest number of victims has been in France, where illness and death have reached epidemic proportions.

    While the full extent of the health disaster has still to emerge, the heavy death toll has led to a serious political crisis for the French government. At the beginning of this week, the number of deaths linked to the heat was estimated at 5,000, and this figure was, according to medical experts, likely to rise, since 50 percent of the deaths have occurred outside hospitals and are not yet accounted for.

    France’s leading undertakers organisation reported on Thursday that as many as 13,000 may have died from exposure to the intense heat.

    Hospitals eventually stopped admitting patients, and people calling for ambulances were told they would have to cope where they were. As a result, people died in hotels, in their homes or, even more often, in old people’s homes. Homeless people simply expired on the street.

    Morgues and funeral homes ran out of space, and some of the dead were left for days on end where they had perished.

    The government ignored warnings by the meteorological office and failed to anticipate the consequences of the intense and prolonged heat in a country where few private homes or offices have air conditioning. It compounded its dereliction by refusing to take steps to cope with the crisis as it grew in urgency from day to day.

    Many doctors and health experts have pointed out that a good number of the deaths could have been prevented. As early as August 7 there were warnings that the heat would have severe consequences and calls for emergency plans to be put into place, but the government remained totally passive. This led to an open conflict between various branches of the health system and the government over the developing disaster. In the second week of August the government was obliged to answer accusations of negligence and indifference.

    Instead of taking serious steps to meet the situation, the government’s response was to cite crisis management measures based on a plan for responding to terrorist attacks or natural disasters in general. Already by the first days of August, hospitals and emergency services were reporting deaths caused by the heat, but the government was still insisting as of the middle of the second week in August that all such deaths were due to “natural causes.”

  • groucho

    Yes Henry, I remember it well. It was largely the result of the bizarre habit the French have of shutting down the entire country for their summer hols in August. But on balance, I’d rather be poor in France than in the U.S. Even the right wingers are hard pressed not to complain at how the crisis has been handled. Check out Lionel Shriver’s very cogent piece in the Guardian’s G2 today.

  • harry flashman

    This right winger has plenty to complain about how the authorities handled this crisis; the responsible authorities in the US in an event like this are; local, state and federal – in that order. The local mayor and his policemen are the first responders this is then backed up by the Governor who sends in the National Guard then after a few days the Federal government can get the big guns rolling.

    Well the big guns are rolling in now, the Feds are clearing up the mess that years of corrupt Democratic mayors and governors created. The dumbass mayor Nagins found ten minutes to maunder on CNN about how Bush and Iraq were the problem and they should send “ev’ry goddam bus” to evacuate his citizens. We now have the photos (on the Internet naturally not on the BBC or Irish Times) showing literally hundreds of school buses and local buses, the very buses supposed to be used in evacuation in his own emergency plan, sitting rusting in their yards leaking oil into the water. The New Orleans police department the most corrupt and useless in the US finds that 30% of its officers have deserted whilst a proportion of the rest unashamedly looted Wal Mart.

    The Governor appears at press conferences weeping, weeping ferchrissakes! Meanwhile she refuses to allow the Feds to take control because that would show how appalling a job she’d done.

    I know this emergency will give the Fintan O’Tooles of this world another opportunity to parrot the usual talking points about how the poorest are left on their own in the US. For the rest of us we become more and convinced that if you want to degrade and demean poor people you must keep them as clients of your self expanding welfare state. That way they are left hopeless and helpless, and when big government fails they are left hanging out to dry (literally). Self respect and self reliance have proved to be the most successful survival technique in this crisis any other approach leads to abandonment and lawlessness.

    At the end of this I hope the Left will confront the appalling underclass that half a century of the welfare monster has created. I doubt that they will however they will continue to demand to pump billions more dollars into the sinkhole that has dehumanised so many millions of people.

  • The Watchman

    I always enjoy Steyn’s Tuesday column in the Telegraph on my Tuesday commute – it’s refreshing to read assertive and forthright conservatism when one considers the timidity and fifth column-ism of the Tory Party. It’s also refreshing to see the NO Mayor and the LO governor getting a bashing. From the wretchedly left wing BBC News, you’d think that Dubya himself had caused Katrina. There will certainly be blame attaching to the federal govt. over this but too many people are jumping on the anti-Bush bandwagon again after nearly a year of silence since his unexpectedly decisive re-election.

    As for welfare, yes, it does all the things that Steyn claims it does. For all the vulnerable elderly people who needs it, there’s some Lizzie Bardsleys and Vicky Pollards out there milking the system. Any sustainable welfare system has to inculcate virtue in those who use it. If you know you’ll get your giro even if you lie in bed all day, drink in the evening and then throw stones at the peelers at night, you ain’t going to change your behaviour.

  • Jocky

    Harry, how did the Left create the underclass? Are you suggesting that the thousands (hopefully being pessimistic here but probalby more realstic) of poor people killed by Katrina, and the millions like them all over America are due to the Left?

    Funny how under Bushes watch the amount of people living in poverty has gone up by 17%. Also infant mortality (a good indicator of poverty) has also risen for the first time since 1958, placing the worlds only superpower at 48th in the world.

    So American has got a problem, quite a big problem, how are the government of the day going to address it? after all its their repsonsibility. how are they going to lift these people out of poverty? create more jobs maybe, increase the funding to public schools so kids from poor families can get a better education so they can get one of these new jobs?

    I read a report (well a book based on a report) that the average gang member/drug dealer earns less than the minimum wage, and has a 1:4 chance of being killed, So why do they do it?

    OK theres a few headcases that are in it for the lifestyle but for the majoirty it’s one of the few “jobs” available to them, infact a lot of them would love to have a decent job, like being a janitor, minimum wage and a v. small chance of being shot, but they cant get one.

    Ok a bit of thread drift but you’ve blamed the left, what’s your ideas for the solution?

    By sinkhole do you mean the Dept. of Homeland Security?

  • Mark Steyn-allergic Conservative

    As usual, ‘Mystic Mark’ wasn’t very close to the, erm, mark when he spewed forth last week. General word of warning for my right wing friends: Mark Steyn is always wrong. Not some of the time, not all of the time, always. Avoid this tar pit of a columnists at all costs.

  • The Watchman

    Oh get off that High perch, Mark Steyn-allergic Conservative. Who would you rather read? Big Bob?

  • 6cprod

    Another excellent column from Steyn, this time in The Telegraph.

    Sounds like there were actually 2,000 school buses at the mayor’s disposal. I wonder why the BBC, Washington Post, Guardian, etc. etc. are not reporting this. I suppose it doesn’t fit their anti-Bush agenda.

    The aerial photographs of hundreds of available school buses sitting in feet of water will be my lasting image of this disaster. What a sad indictment of the failure of local government.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • harry flashman

    Ok Jocky I’ll grant the left did not create the underclass, it was always there but the left has for the first time in hisrory insisted on susidising it. Perhaps I should define what I mean by the underclass, I do not simply mean poor people, no there will always be people in unfortunate circumstances who need a helping hand. What I refer to is, to use an unfortunate Marxist term, the lumpenproletariat, these are the people who have chosen to opt out, who have decided that productive activity is just not for them and instead live in feckless abandon often indulging in crime and drug or alcohol abuse.

    My complaint about the Left’s welfare obsession is that they group these two very different societies together and label them ‘the poor’. The Left, ever fearful of being labelled judgmental, will not differentiate between poor people who are fundamentally decent and in need of genuine assistance and basically the criminal underbelly that exists in every society. As a result the inevitable levelling down (not up) that occurs when the Left take control of any institution (be that Russia, a comprehensive school or the NHS, where inevitably in the name of equality we get the equality of the lowest common denominator) and the hitherto honest poor simply slip into feckless criminality themselves encouraged by welfarism.

    Now I know the Left often have a refusal to believe the evidence of their own eyes and instead insist on statistics; “Look our schoolchildren are getting better educated see how many A’s they get in their exams…our hospital waiting lists have fallen for the third successive year…the Russian harvest has yet again beaten the target of the five year plan”, but I really wish some people would look around them. Someone above has alluded to ‘Little Britain’, satire of course, but is good satire not based on truth? Just look at society today, do you really believe that the hoodies that terrorise neighbourhoods, the schoolgirl mothers in subsidised flats, the DLA taxi drivers etc are role models for society or indeed that their lifestyle should be funded by hardworking taxpayers? It is only now after sisxty years of ever increasing welfarism that people are beginning to ask serious questions about all this, even then they will be howled down as the Gurdianistas and the BBC accuse us of trying to steal food out of babies’ mouths as we cackle maniacally and twist at our evil black waxed moustaches!

    With regard to Bush I am curious why you feel it is his responsibility to change the lifestyle of his constituents. Perhaps you can point to the clause of the United States Constitution, his contract of employment, that demands he do so, you can’t? If there is a need to fund welfare in the US, then the Constitution and the subsequent balance of powers lay that squarely with the local authorities. I know left wing lovers of Big Government assume the president should have supreme and omnipotent powers but the framers of the Constitution were very wise men who believed in individual and state responsibilty with power devolved in ever limited ways upwards.

    So when catastrophe hits a locality unless it is as a result of something in the president’s jurisdiction eg attack from a foreign power then you have to look to your mayor and governor. In such a situation you better pray he or she doesn’t have “D” after their names.

  • Seán Mac Cann

    Mark Steyn – a man who always stands up for the rich and powerful. What a guy. Mark for Pres.

  • abucs

    Harry Flashman, I have to agree with a lot of which you have said.
    I think the Welfare state has gone a long way to destroying the fabric of our families, especially in places like Britain, America and Australia where couples, if they are couples any longer, are lucky to raise one or two children. In these supposedly rich countries, this is a worrying trend.
    I know in the short term it is easy to focus on someone in need and say ‘hey look, some money would really help them’. But I think in the medium to longer term it has major problems.

    I am someone who travels extensively in Asia and I see the difference in the mindset of the people there to here and I think the lack of social welfare is a big contributor. The people there are generally more interested in education, working hard and live a moral family life out of necessity. There is a notable lack of riotous, aggressive behaviour and also a lack of excuses for financial position. They know that the more they can encourage eachother to do well at school, the better they will be at handling family problems. They know the better the job they can get the better off their families will be. They know the more children they have brought up in a close loving family environment the better off in old age they will be. On the other hand, they know that situations like lavish spending, gambling, single parenting etc effects the whole family and takes money and opportunity way from the whole family so there is a necessity to shun such activities. There is no safety net to bail them out other than their understanding family members.

    People stand and fall quite literally on their moral behaviour and close family ties. Concepts like individual independence, selfishness and ego give way to a concepts of family trust, self sacrifice and loyalty. Now I’m not saying they are all poor and saints. There’s many rich people over there that would consider the average westerner poor (millions of them). And there’s lots of them that are anything but moral. But by and large, out of necessity (i.e. no social welfare) they have to behave well to eachother and progress.

    Now I have no objection to giving money to good people to help them. I know if I give money to a good family, it will put one of their son’s through school, or send an uncle to the city to get work for the family etc. But to permanently institutionalise giving means that after the good families have become self sufficient, a lot of other people will still be sitting back and carrying on with bad behaviour knowing that their new family (i.e. the state) will fund them. And many of those people will have absolutely no loyalty or gratitude to the state. And the state will not hold them to account as close family members would. I believe to a large extent it is rewarding bad behaviour, until bad behaviour becomes the norm.

    I have been to the most remotest places in Asia where people still live in bamboo huts. And I have been brought up in the urban poor areas in our societies who have much more material wealth and opportunity than they will ever have in their lifetimes. To me, poverty is more to do with the mindset of the individual/family than possessions. Asia is on the rise and we will be competing against them more and more into the future for jobs. In waiving our family and community ties and responsibilities in favour of a state sponsored individualism and rights, we are going to find it very tough.

    I do believe in some state interference, especially in providing universal schooling, public utilities and subsidising the basic dietry requirements. But this huge welfare system as it has become, is so large now that it will be in danger of collapsing. Western governments all round the world are gradually rolling the welfare system back as it is unaffordable and after sixty years has not alleviated poverty. Our families, in many ways, our dysfunctional families, are in such a condition that the cutting back of services is going to hurt until we become again, self reliant as family units. I think we are going through a very turbulant time, and the answer is not to throw more good money after bad.