06/16/06 — Cheaters 1, aid for needy 0: Fiascos like the Katrina payouts make givers jaded

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Cheaters 1, aid for needy 0: Fiascos like the Katrina payouts make givers jaded

When Hurricane Katrina caused havoc in New Orleans, the first criticism was that the government moved too slowly in getting rescue workers to the region.

Then, the complaint became that the aid was too slow in coming, and there were families struggling because they could not get access to government money quickly enough.

And now, months later, you see the result of what happens when a massive government operation is pushed to move too quickly because of political rather than practical concerns.

Millions of dollars that were supposed to go to hurricane victims were instead used for some pretty inappropriate purchases — trips, tickets and even a sex change operation. And who knows what else will be uncovered as the investigation continues.

Before the aid was passed out to victims, many warned that there was too much freedom with the government-issued relief funds. They warned that a better system of distribution was needed — that there was too much potential for fraud and misuse of funds.

Few people listened. They were too busy looking for a scapegoat for the devastation that hit New Orleans and turning calls for aid into politicking.

And now. we have a mess.

But the problem with the Katrina funds distribution is much more far-reaching than the misuse of taxpayer dollars, even though that is a concern, too.

The real worry is that graft like this is exactly why people are so hesitant to contribute to aid organizations and projects these days.

There weren’t many people who watched the stories about the families in New Orleans and who did not feel sympathy, empathy and the desire to help. So, many sent checks.

How discouraging to hear that money that was earmarked by the government for relief efforts did not go to help children and adults who needed it, but was instead misused by some recipients.

Makes you think twice about pulling out your wallet for the next cause or disaster that comes along, doesn’t it?

The Katrina scandal needs to be investigated and the guilty parties made to return the funds — no matter how they need to repay them. If they do not have the money, they can complete community service projects until they have repaid their debts.

Then, we can start figuring out how to make sure something like this never happens again.

Published in Editorials on June 16, 2006 11:27 AM