Sunday, September 28, 2008



By : G. Willie Branson III, President, Association for Responsibility in America (ARA); Chairman, United Collection Professionals Guild (UCPG)

Three years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast casinos. At the time, President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) delivered timely, generous assistance to many families touched by nature’s wrath. Our government provided housing, medical care, temporary employment opportunities and free electricity to millions of former New Orleans residents. It even paid to transport many former residents several hundred miles to Houston, Texas. There, it continued to support these residents with free housing. Under such comfortable circumstances, it surprised no one that these residents did not want to return to New Orleans. Why would they? If I was receiving a free meal, I wouldn’t want to leave, either.

But Katrina struck three years ago. That’s three years ago. To this day, many New Orleans residents continue to insist that the government support them, complaining “they cannot find jobs.” They say the hurricane altered their lives and they cannot get back on their feet. They say they lost everything they had. Many remain in free housing in Houston, draining valuable federal money that could be far better used to stem a looming financial crisis in New York. These residents refuse to budge. They are indignant that the government now wishes to cut them off.

We have a simple message for these former New Orleans residents: You are to blame for your problems. You brought this situation on yourselves. Rather than heed fair warnings from authorities prior to the hurricane, you chose to remain in harm’s way. You had every means at your disposal leave the city, yet you foolishly faced the tidal surge. What can we say? Play with fire and you’ll get burned. Or, to be perfectly accurate, play with a flood and you’ll drown. You lost your homes and your jobs because you knowingly encountered a natural disaster. And now you expect us to feel sorry for you three years later? New Orleans residents should have been grateful that the federal government provided them any housing at all. It is pure insolence for them now to say the federal government should continue to shower them with free benefits.

America became great as a Nation because Americans understand what it means to be “responsible.” Yet as the 21st Century continues, it is becoming sadly apparent that more and more Americans are losing that virtue. In our parents’ time, no one expected a free lunch; they worked for a living. If a disaster struck, they faced adversity with stoic vigor. They did not cry and whine for help. They did not feel entitled to benefits. If they did not earn their benefits, they had no right to them. And they certainly did not expect their government to give them free housing. They were responsible; they saw to their own welfare in good times as well as bad.

But Katrina “victims” seem to think that they have a right to free help from the government. This is not responsibility; this is laziness, pure and simple. While many Americans briefly sympathized with New Orleans residents following Katrina, that momentary sympathy did not transform into a lifetime entitlement to free housing, or a permanent license to receive free money. And that was three years ago. If you can’t get a job in three years—no matter what adversity you face—you are to blame. Worse, when you put yourself in adversity’s way, you are even more to blame for your predicament. Responsible people heed warnings. When they can avoid adversity, they do. The same cannot be said of Katrina “victims.”

Former New Orleans residents embody all that is wrong with America today. Rather than viewing life in our country as opportunity to better oneself, they expect our country to keep them in comfort. They are lazy, whining, insolent, ungrateful, layabout losers. They expect our Nation to hold their hands through life. They give nothing to a Nation that gave everything to them. It is not our responsibility to sustain these losers. Responsible Americans take care of themselves. Yet these crybabies moan they lost everything. They say they lost their homes, their relatives and their futures. What pathetic, whining excuses! Most did not even own their homes, yet they say they “lost them.” Most were unemployed, yet they say they “lost their futures.” Most had relatives who were dying anyway. So who cares whether the hurricane shaved a few years off their unemployed lives? A strong, responsible person would have dusted himself off and made a new start. A strong, responsible person would not have asked for help. But these losers do not understand what it means to be responsible. Instead, they whine and accuse the government of “callousness” and “cruelty.”

Let us get this straight: It was “callous” and “cruel” to move you—at no cost—to Houston and place you in free government housing? It was “callous” and “cruel” to provide you with free electricity and air conditioning, as well as opportunities for employment with local commercial establishments? If New Orleans residents consider such selfless generosity “callous,” it is hard to fathom what they would consider “generous.” How about an individual 4500 square foot mansion for each family, with a guaranteed tax-free annual income of $1 million? Would that be enough to cover you, you ungrateful pests? Put simply, New Orleans residents’ complaints should disgust every responsible American. It is time to mute them once and for all.

What is the solution? And how can we restore responsibility to the rightful place it deserves in the pantheon of American values? In the short term, we must immediately suspend all further funding for Katrina relief programs. We have poured far too much money into this problem and we have created an entire class of insolent, self-serving wretches. It is simply un-American to cultivate irresponsibility in our citizens. To that end, we must also tabulate the exact amounts spent on each Katrina “victim” and send a bill to each “victim.” Even those “victims” imprisoned at federal expense must pay for their prison lodgings and amenities. We must re-instill responsibility as a key American virtue, and financial liability is an excellent way to do this. If each whining Katrina “victim” suddenly has some bills to pay, it will seem less attractive to sit around free housing all day waiting for handouts. And we must eliminate traditional avenues to avoiding responsibility. That means amending the Bankruptcy Act (Title 11, United States Code) so as to forbid bankruptcy defenses on any Katrina-related invoices. To win the war on irresponsibility, we must bring home the notion that debts are debts. They must be paid no matter what adversity befalls the debtor. It is time to stop the indulgences.

In the long term, we must promote responsibility. As the Katrina mess sadly shows, a terrible moral disordering has upset our Nation’s social fabric. Rather than accept blame for their foolish actions, all too many Americans blame others for problems they created themselves. To correct this imbalance, we must get back to first principles. What is responsibility? Responsibility means answering for one’s actions. That, in turn, means accepting blame for foolhardy actions. If a child plays with a saw he knows is dangerous, he must accept the blame for cutting off his hand. He cannot blame the saw maker for failing to install redundant safety mechanisms. He committed the blameworthy act, and he must answer for its consequences. Similarly—like the child playing with a dangerous saw—Katrina “victims” foolishly remained in New Orleans, despite warnings to leave. They suffered consequences for their foolishness. A responsible person would have accepted these consequences, but these ungrateful losers did not. They chose to blame everyone and everything but themselves: The city government; FEMA; President Bush; their financial circumstances; racism; Congress; economic disenfranchisement. In short, they did not answer for their actions. They attempted to foist blame on others. That is not responsibility. That is irresponsibility and cowardice.

What can we do to root out the irresponsible cowardice that has corrupted so many Americans? Obviously it is difficult to change people’s character, and responsibility is the hallmark of good character. But through law we can entice people to change their ways, no matter what they actually believe. We can start by denying compensation for any injury even remotely caused by the injured person’s fault. In all too many lawsuits, injured people injure themselves. We can promote responsibility as a virtue if we eliminate all recovery when the Plaintiff’s own behavior contributes to the injury. For example, if a city power pole falls on a man walking down the street drunk, he should not be able to sue the city because he was drunk. A responsible man would not have been drunk and would have noticed the danger. Currently, our legal system “compares” blame. This merely promotes irresponsibility by rewarding irresponsible people for their own foolishness. It is time to bar all lawsuits in which the Plaintiff contributes to his own problems.

Promoting responsibility will not be easy. But we must return to the virtues that made this Nation great. Responsibility can be uncomfortable. After all, no one likes to suffer negative consequences. We do not like to hear about others in pain. But this is exactly the problem: Too many Americans are willing to sympathize with irresponsible people because they have “touching stories.” This is nonsense. We must deal harshly with irresponsibility, no matter how sympathetic the story. We must not allow our personal feelings to interfere. For every indulgence we make, we weaken our virtues as a Nation. We cannot afford to feel sorry for people who lose their homes and families because they chose to remain in harm’s way. That would reward bad decisionmaking and elevate irresponsibility to profitability. We have already gone far down this road, and we must act now to correct the damage. Stop feeling sorry for Katrina “victims.” No matter how much you may sympathize with them because they suffered, you must remember that they put themselves in their own predicament. If you indulge them, you merely encourage them to pursue their socially useless behavior. That means more government expense, more irresponsibility and more unemployment. Certainly we can agree that these are not things we want as a Nation.

Katrina “victims” are like dogs: They look at you from under the dinner table with wide, plaintive eyes. You give them a morsel from your plate because you feel sorry for them. Yet after the first morsel, they come back for seconds. And thirds. And fourths. Soon there is nothing left on your plate, and the dog both depends on and expects your indulgences. It would have been better not to give anything to the dog in the first instance. And that should be our policy today.

Responsibility is its own reward. We are well aware that answering for one’s own actions is easier when one has some money to spare, but responsibility knows no social or economic distinctions. Just because a person finds himself in a predicament does not permit him to depend on the rest of us. Katrina “victims” have themselves to blame for their predicament. Their plight is not our problem. Certainly there is value in the adage: “But for the grace of God go I.” But that adage does not apply when it comes to financial responsibility. If government observed that adage, every person who has a hard month would have a permanent claim on the treasury. We all have had hard months. But we face our problems soberly and responsibly. We find a way; we do not moan, whine and pout for freebies. It is time to stop the handouts in New Orleans and Houston. We must restore responsibility to America. And that means showing good old American-style tough love to those irresponsible, whining luggards who think government owes them for their own stupidity.

Responsibility : It’s Our Policy ®

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