Sunday, June 22, 2008

Put up or shut up

"George Bush doesn't care about black people"

--Kanye West

On a recent Saturday during a casual stroll through Riverside Park in NYC, I got into a conversation with a friend of mine about the virtues of charity work and what the role for government should be when it comes to helping those that are less fortunate than we are. My friend, who works for a not-for-profit charitable organization, echoed a position that I've heard many times from people who do charity work -- namely that the government should do more, citing the specific example of the excruciatingly slow Hurricane Katrina rebuilding process. I was (and still am) of the opinion that charity works best in the hands of private citizens (like my friend) who actually care about what they are doing, as opposed to crooked politicians who only care about getting re-elected.

In a perfect world, there would be a "charity tax" where every private citizen would automatically have a percentage of their paycheck deducted and the money distributed to starving children or homeless people or what-have-you. Unfortunately it is not a perfect world, so instead of a charity tax, our hard-earned money is doled out to such crucial projects as the "House for the International Fund for Ireland" (to the tune of $14,878,000), a "harbor seal and stellar sea lion protection program" (to the tune of $3,478,000), the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service ($1,950,000), "olive fruitfly research" ($742,764), and of course what list of government expenditures would be complete without the Lobster Institute ($188,000).

All in all, we're talking about over $17.2 billion for these types of absurd programs in 2008 alone. If you really want to make your head spin, check out the Citizens against Government Waste website. I mean, seals are cute and all that I guess, but do we really need to spend almost $3.5 million of public money studying them?? And even when they spend money on legitimate or semi-legitimate projects like a road expansion project in Boston, it turns into a Big Dig disaster to the tune of $14.6 billion in over-spending, sweetheart deals and crooked politics.

So, government is out. Let's keep private citizens in charge and leave our publicly-elected officials to concentrate on just not embarrassing us too much.

But what to do about Katrina? If George Bush won't care about black people in New Orleans, who will? You? Me? Kanye?

Indeed, Kanye West is not the only critic of this administration's handling of the New Orleans rebuilding effort. Arianna Huffington, Celine Dion, Pink, Brad Pitt, George Soros and many other rich celebrities have attacked the president for what they perceive as his lack of concern for the Katrina rebuilding efforts. But what about their own levels of concern?

In any democracy, there is always room for the average citizen to criticize anyone, anywhere, anytime and for any reason -- whether justifiable or not. That's the beauty of our Bill of Rights and Freedom of Speech. The only time it becomes an issue is when people talk, complain or whine about something that they themselves can solve.

For example, if you followed the link to Brad Pitt's comments on the lack of New Orleans funding you would see that all it takes to "adopt" a home is $150,000. Let's assume that "adopting" a home means either rebuilding or rehabilitating it so it is suitable for human habitation...

According to the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps, based on US Postal Service data, there are approximately 71,466 households still displaced from Louisiana in the aftermath of the hurricane (interestingly enough, the racial breakdown of these households is about even at 46% Black, 46% White and 7% "other" - so apparently President Bush doesn't care about white people either). According to the same article, approximately 40% of the people still displaced are interested in returning and cite moving costs and housing as the main reasons they do not return. So this leaves us with approximately 28,586 houses that need to be built. Using Brad Pitt's numbers - we need to raise approximately $4,287,900,000 (over 4 billion dollars).

WOW. That, is a LOT of money.

Or at least it is to you and me...

Let's examine some of the people we're talking about - starting with George Soros,



a man who has said he would give up his entire personal fortune to get President Bush out of office. Forbes Magazine estimates that Mr. Soros is worth approximately $8.5 billion. Which, for those keeping track at home is more than double what we need to rehabilitate all the remaining homeless Katrina victims. Soros could single-handedly solve the entire housing crisis in New Orleans and STILL have $4 billion to blow on his Bush-obsession...and then STILL have $200 million left over.

And lest you think that Mr. Soros is not capable of making such gigantic contributions, he is regularly honored by Slate Magazine for his obscene donation amounts. (almost $500 million in 2007 alone!) It is estimated that his largest foundation, the Open Society Institute, controls over $1.3 billion. Aside from deposing president Bush, the OSI is dedicated to promoting democracy in Europe, Africa and around the world. Oh, and apparently they gave $815,000 to non-profit groups devoted to Katrina survivors.

$815,000. Out of $1.3 billion. Out of $8.5 billion. And no, I'm not missing any zeros there. That's eight hundred fifteen thousand dollars. By contrast, Soros contributed more than $25 million to John Kerry's failed presidential campaign. That could have been 166 less displaced families from Louisiana.

OOPS.

And the nonsense doesn't end with Soros. If you clicked on that Times article you would have read that fellow Bush-bashers, moveon.org, along with major unions and environmental groups spent almost $100 million trying to keep Bush out of the White House...money that could have put 664 Katrina families back in their homes.

OOPS.

Arianna Huffington, another frequent loudmouth critic (of anyone not named Arianna Huffington that is), has admitted that she flies around in private jets and lives in a $7 million home. She is also a multi-millionaire primarily as a result of her marriage to and subsequent divorce from bisexual oil mogul Michael Huffington. How many families could she be helping with her money that instead goes into maintaining her lifestyle and yelling at George Bush???

And what about Celine Dion? According Forbes magazine's "20 Richest Women in Entertainment" list, she's worth a quarter of a billion herself. In the aftermath of Katrina, Dion who tearfully suggested on Larry King Live, that the people who were looting stores and coming out with HD flat screen televisions weren't stealing them - they just wanted to touch them - also pledged $1 million (more than Soros!) to the Red Cross. Well that was great that she could toss out less than 0.5% of her net worth and all...but 2005 was three years ago. Where's she been since that absurd Larry King Live clip???

According to her "Look to the Stars" site, singer Pink who went after the president for ignoring the "homeless" (a reference that has been attributed to Katrina survivors) doesn't "support" (we can assume monetarily) any Katrina-related charities...but she DID start a petition to call on KFC not to abuse their chickens before killing them.

OOPS.

Brad Pitt, who in 2005 (several years, movies and Angelina Jolie's ago) had an estimated net worth of approximately $100 million is clearly on the Katrina front-lines, having spent $5 million of his own money (a staggering 5% of what was his net worth in 2005) on rebuilding efforts...not to mention time and effort. Maybe instead of screaming for government intervention he could use some those moves he displayed in Fight Club to motivate his wife, fellow do-gooder Angelina Jolie to at least MATCH what he's put in?

And finally, we come to our buddy Kanye. West, who started this whole mess...has been making 8 figures since at least 2005 and earned $30 million in 2007 alone. After scouring the internet for days, I could find no proof that West gave anything at all to Katrina victims aside from a soundbite during a benefit show and an undisclosed donation to the Red Cross immediately after the hurricane.

So maybe instead of demanding government handouts and yelling at the president, West and company should have a word with some of their fellow aristocrats like George Soros, who have the power to put an end to all of this themselves. Maybe instead of calling for reductions in spending on Iraq (an effort that if nothing else is rebuilding a country and reducing homelessness in a region that needs all the help it can get), these loudmouths should take aim at corrupt projects like the Big Dig or useless projects like the Lobster Institute.

Because right now all these high-society types are doing is making a lot of self-righteous noise and I don't know about you but I've got enough noise in my life already. And I'm sick of these loudmouth hypocrites screaming about how heartless OTHER people are. To go back to Celine Dion and put it in perspective, the average American is worth approximately $86,000. If you don't own a home that number drops to almost nothing. So while $1 million may sound like a lot, in reality it's equal to about $500 for most of us...unless we don't own property, in which case it's about the equivalent of a hot dog.

So to Celine, Kanye, Soros and all the rest I say:


SHUT UP ALREADY!!

7 comments:

v said...

Sometimes people get comfortable with rich people around, and next thing you know, every time there's a crisis, everyone is looking to Brad or Soros or Celine and expecting them to do all the work just because they're rich.

I've seen it before. This person will pay the tab, and then, no one else helps. Brad and/or Angelina don't have to pay for everything. The nation as a whole, at least the State as a whole, should come together and help these people out. It's not just on their shoulders to fix the issues here. What happens when Brad dies or Angelina? Who do we depend on then? If 70,000,000 people gave about $60 then that would make 4 Billion As well. This country doesn't have $70,000,000 with $60?

TovahR said...

The Jewish community has provided relief for the entire Gulf Coast region, including New Orleans from the very start. They have donated time, money, volunteers, assistance of every imaginable kind. The State of Israel also provided tons of supplies including bottled water, food and baby food, diapers, medical supplies including adult and children's wheelchairs and crutches, thousands of first-aid kits and thousands of blankets and cots within days of the disaster. They also sent teams of professionals trained in disaster relief to assist the victims in the area, including a group of doctors of which my parents were a part. The work continues and my family continues to donate funds and time. But more needs to be done. The fact that so little has been accomplished and rebuilt is a disgrace.
Katrina touched my family because of a call my parents got almost immediately. They are two of a group of doctors in the US trained and ready to travel to Israel as a resource for emergency medical assistance should the need arise and they were called on to go help as they are experts in medical disaster relief.
For me, I would never want to see the US government deciding and controlling charitable works. This is a place where I can decide what kind of a difference I want to make and how. I have little faith in governmental entities and their ability to make a decision and do the right thing because it is simply the right thing.

RonMossad said...

"Sometimes people get comfortable with rich people around, and next thing you know, every time there's a crisis, everyone is looking to Brad or Soros or Celine and expecting them to do all the work just because they're rich."

Well no, see my whole point isn't to say the rich should carry the burden of everyone else on their backs...that's redistribution of wealth and it's just wrong. The point is that these people all yell about the government not doing enough, when they themselves could often be doing a LOT more. Wealthy people tend to give charity...but the question is why do they do it? Do they actually care, or is it just a publicity stunt? And if they do care, why in the world don't they do more with the funds available to them??

"What happens when Brad dies or Angelina? Who do we depend on then? If 70,000,000 people gave about $60 then that would make 4 Billion As well. This country doesn't have $70,000,000 with $60?"

Well when Brad Pitt dies I'm sure he'll leave his money to someone or some organization and then its on them to do something with it. But as for this country not having 70M people with $60...the problem is, if you read the first half of my blog you'd see that the government just doesn't know what it's doing when it comes to spending our money.

And furthermore, if there were 70 million people who cared enough to give $60 they would have by now. The fact that they haven't shows that the government should NOT be telling us what and who to spend our money on. This is a democracy afterall. Maybe I want to spend money on homeless people in MY town instead of 2000 miles away? Why should anyone tell me what I should or should not do with my hard-earned money??

RonMossad said...

"For me, I would never want to see the US government deciding and controlling charitable works. This is a place where I can decide what kind of a difference I want to make and how. I have little faith in governmental entities and their ability to make a decision and do the right thing because it is simply the right thing."

THANK YOU

But you should know that plenty of your tax dollars go into programs that can be construed as charity.

v said...

"
But you should know that plenty of your tax dollars go into programs that can be construed as charity."

lol...

Well anyway... 4 Billion is a lot of money. Hopefully those displaced will eventually through karma or what not get back what they lost. the 1500+ who lost their lives because of the tragedy, well, that's certainly irreplaceable.

I guess those celebrities should in fact just shut up. You know, there's this story about a couple of I guess millionaires who like, bought thousands and thousands of acres of land in south america and made it into a park so that no one would be able to buy it and tear down the trees or build off of it. They could have gone on TV and made a fuss but, they instead, just bought it all. I wish I could just buy New Orleans or something.

Maybe giving to fellow Americans isn't as fun as giving to Indonesians?

v said...

http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,379264,00.html

RonMossad said...

Actually if you think about it, most social justice programs are pretty similar to charity. Welfare? Medicaid? All programs where people with money are ideally helping people without money. Think about it.

That was a good article by the way. You know what's funny about it though? This line:

"George Soros, Ted Turner and Sylvester Stallone have all bought land in South America's southernmost tip. They come here to ski and ride or they breed sheep, like Luciano Benetton. Land is cheap in Patagonia and the nature still seems intact."

Keep skiing in Patagonia guys - but New Orleans? Leave that to the taxpayers!