One city-Houston, Texas-outperformed federal, local and state governments in responding to Hurricane Katrina.
“How did [Houston] mobilize so quickly?” asks Nicole Gelinas, one of the best thinkers on the aftermath of Katrina. “A social-services expert might think that, being such a small-government town, it would have been overwhelmed by the influx: recently branded one of America’s ‘meanest cities’ by a homeless-advocacy group, Houston spent less than $1,500 per person in city funds last year, compared with New York’s $5,000. It has one public-sector worker to serve every 130 citizens, compared with one for every 22 in New York. About 6 percent of New Yorkers live in public housing; less than 1 percent of Houstonians do. Houston has no income tax, and nearly everyone you meet there boasts that the city is a ‘business city’ with ‘business interests.’…
“The federal government’s answer for evacuees whose homes and jobs had washed away was the one it gives to those displaced briefly by a run-of-the-mill hurricane: motels and ‘FEMA-villes’ of mobile homes in isolated rural spots. But Houston knew that such temporary housing was no answer for the hundreds of thousands who needed to restart productive lives as soon as possible. The last thing America needed was massive Palestinian-style refugee camps on our own soil, filled with people who would refuse to get on with their lives, until, as former New Orleans mayor Marc Morial and the Acorn urban-activist group have already insisted, they are awarded a ‘right of return.’
“For the thousands who did stay in FEMA-paid hotels and trailers after Katrina, at a cost of over a billion dollars, hotel living encouraged dependency and inertia, particularly for those who had been dependent and inert in the first place. Many evacuees in hotels delayed looking for real housing and employment for months, focusing instead on pushing back each new FEMA eviction date (and, at one New York hotel, enlisting the Reverend Al Sharpton to help them achieve ‘social justice’).”
Unless you’re a doctrinaire liberal, you know that the government-programs approach has failed. Isn’t it time that people in New Orleans quit sitting around, asking when the federal money is going to come, and got up and…worked to rebuild their city? With private enterprise.