Justifiably: A Can’t-Do Government
At a fundamental level, I’d argue, our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.
Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.
So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can’t-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.
It turns out that our individual striving goes on within a web of social protections that we take for granted until they disappear. We rely on each other more than we know. The rich, the middle class and the poor — all of us — bank on law, government, collective action and public goods more than we ever want to admit. The dreaded word “infrastructure” puts people to sleep at city council meetings and congressional hearings. But when publicly built infrastructure — those levees that held for so many years — breaks down, we realize that the things that seem boring and not worth thinking about are essential.
[…] How can we look Katrina’s victims in the eye, say we care and yet not take account of how their needs should affect the other things government does? I’m sorry to raise this, but can it make any sense that one of the early issues the U.S. Senate is scheduled to confront this month is the repeal of the estate tax on large fortunes when we haven’t even calculated the costs of Katrina? And why do we keep evading a national debate over who is bearing the burdens of a war that has dragged on far longer than its architects promised?
Katrina is the work of nature, but what happens from this point forward is the responsibility of political leadership. Is it possible that in the face of a catastrophe of this magnitude, Washington will not even bother to rethink our nation’s priorities?