Monday, September 26, 2005

The new American Revolution?

Justin Webb graced the BBC again this weekend with some more of his pithy observations on America. This time, not surprisingly, his comments centered on the aftereffects of hurricane Katrina and the “social and economic inequalities” it highlighted. In doing so, Webb shows how steeped in leftist ideology his thinking is.

Pondering on the political and psychological implications of Katrina, Webb says:
The real question - putting it baldly - is whether there is going to be a revolution.

Will the American social and economic system - which creates the wealth that pays for billionaires' private jets, and the poverty which does not allow for a bus fare out of New Orleans - be addressed?
The American social and economic system in fact creates the wealth that pays for all manner of things – schools, food, museums, even left-wing think-tanks - for all kinds of people, rich, poor and (perhaps more than any) otherwise. It also creates the wealth that pays for things like 57% of the UN’s World Food Program budget, and 22% of the UN’s operating budget. But at least as bad as Webb’s obvious resort to socialist demagoguery is his equally obvious economic ignorance. He may not be happy with the way the American economic system deals with poverty, but only a fool can think that it actually creates poverty where none would otherwise exist.

He doesn’t even seem to have a clue as to what it would mean to “address” the social and economic system in America.
[The social and economic system] has been tinkered with before of course, sometimes as a result of natural disasters. There were for instance plenty of buses on hand for this week's Rita evacuation.
Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that, contrary to Webb's implication, even in New Orleans there were plenty of buses on hand for Katrina’s evacuation too (they just weren’t used). Just how does utilizing buses for an evacuation represent “tinkering” with the economic system of the US? I am at a loss. But that’s OK because, as Webb assures us, such tinkering hasn’t really changed much:
But the system's fundamentals - no limit on how far you can fly and little limit on how low you can fall - remain as intact as they were in the San Francisco gold rush.
Well, let’s see. The San Francisco gold rush began in 1849. At the time the top federal income tax rate was a robust 0%, and in fact was unconstitutional. Annual federal outlays for unemployment insurance and other poverty prevention/reduction measures were exactly $0. Indeed, terms such as Social Security, Medicaid, Federal Deposit Insurance, the minimum wage, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and food stamps – not exactly unknown concepts to 21st century America - would in fact not even be invented for nearly another 100 years.

Now, I’m not entirely opposed to a touch of hyperbole now and then, but the notion that little has changed in the US government’s posture towards wealth and poverty in the last 150 years, and that there remains “little limit” on how low one’s economic prospects can go in the US is so utterly and completely absurd it is only fair to question just how much contempt Webb has for the intelligence of his audience that he tries to pass this off as a reasonable observation.

Demonstrating that the ideology of the BBC’s correspondents hasn’t changed much over the years, Webb favorably quotes one of his predecessors, who apparently referred to the failure of the European style welfare state to gain a foothold in the US in the wake of the Vietnam War as a “tragedy”. And Webb doubts that it ever will, lamenting that America will not be, in 50 years, the “workers paradise” that, one can only presume, he thinks the welfare states of Europe are.

Webb also has a tendency to portray universal traits as distinctly American characteristics. “Inequality,” he says, “is a part of American life…” Well, yes, just as it is a part of life the world over. Certainly he doesn't think that things like the NHS and the dole has rendered inequality extinct in the UK, does he? He says that “American government is a mess. American bureaucracy and red tape is a national shame.” Compared to what, those paragons of bureaucratic efficiency and sources of national pride in Westminster and Brussels? Surely he jests.

Webb does note, with apparently some degree of admiration, American self reliance along with the can-do attitude and charitable spirit of individual Americans. But even this seems to come with a black cloud.
This is unquestionably a source of strength and spine in troubled times, but boy does it put a dampener on revolution.

Charity ameliorates it, softens blows, pours oil on troubled waters. It does not lead to social change.

What a bummer, huh? Webb does at least leave us with something about which I sincerely hope he is correct. He says:

Americans are cross with the government and disappointed with the response from Washington, but they have not sat on their hands and waited for the government to sort itself out. Much the opposite.

Americans have given with unbridled enthusiasm and generosity.

Is that not something governments do?

Americans do not think so and never will.

Perhaps, unlike Webb, Americans are aware that the government's ability to "give" with enthusiasm must, of necessity, be matched by a similarly unbridled enthusiasm for taking, and that "generosity" is not exactly an accurate characterization for such action. Perhaps Americans recognize that "generosity" requires a bit more than just spending other people's money.


Anonymous tired & excitable said...

Oh, screw Webb. Nothing new there, nor with the certainty that the Brits will continue to pay their BBC dues and whistle past the graveyard.

For the few in Britain who still value fact, try this:
...and then square it with the Katrina crap you got from Webb/Frei/Reynolds et al, and with the certainly that the BBC will retract nothing.

Mmm, I know. How about a national apology to the people of the United States from Tony himself, complete with that pathetic British ritual of tossing cut flowers against a handy wall while a chorus of frumpy housewives babble about closure? And ask the people of Liverpool to invoke the spirit of the Bigley Moment one more time, and offer up a group hug followed by a four minute silence to show 'respect'?

You Brits long since lost any sense of shame. What makes you think you can avoid paying the price?

8:55 AM  
Blogger David said...

Err the real Brits pay the price with their lives in the Middle East and elsewhere...or like many of us serve 22 years and end up disabled as a result. We DO have a sense of shame that our allies think we are not friends because of the likes of the BBC.

The lefties are slowly disappearing; even so called NuLabour is becoming a centrist party. But because the BBC is one of the last bastions of the loonies they have an influence overseas however they are not and never were the voice of the true Brits.

We have no CHOICE about paying dues to the BBC; the bloody Police care more about putting BBC tax dodgers away than they do murderers somedays - but hopefully with a few years even the BBC will have to drop the licence fee and we can watch what the hell we want.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear tired & excitable

I don't judge you on Dan Rather. Please don't make the same mistake re: the BBC's latest idiot.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

No, I don't buy it.

BBC News is rotten to the core, and has done -- continues to do -- terrible harm to your country. Yet you all fiddle like Nero or whinge that Auntie might tell on you to Nanny. How pathetic is that?

With regard to Katrina, you are simply being played for fools. Frei, for example, reported "fully, accurately and fairly" according to Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News. Full quote here:

Yet still you bleat and pout, so Boaden appears to have your measure.

Your troops in Basra, warts and all, surely deserve admiration and support. They don't get it. Whose fault is that?

Dan Rather is nutty, old, out of a job and in disgrace. The BBC continues to spew lies and pick your pocket. What's your point?

It gives no pleasure at all, but there is no other way to say it: Is Britain now just a land of narcissists and girly-men?

7:02 AM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Tired & Excitable

"Is Britain now just a land of narcissists and girly-men?"


8:57 AM  
Anonymous Mike T said...

"Is Britain now just a land of narcissists and girly-men?"

Yes. Judge them by their deeds.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Brit ashamed of the BBC said...


An excellent piece, very well written. Puts BBC "journalists" to shame.

To those posting some err... not nice things about Brits on here, please know that there are still many of us who like America and Americans. Don't tar us all with the BBC brush, please. I for one find it insulting. Thx.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

This mentality on the part of Webb makes a clear distinction between the U.S. and the European train of thought. We take pride in the fact that Americans take to helping each other out in times of crisis. After 9/11, when experts predicted it might take more than a year to clean up "the pile" that was the World Trade Center in Manhattan, volunteers from the NYC fire department, Police, and trade authorities set up their own volunteer network to work on the cleanup. City, state, and federal workers came in and coordinated getting the debris material out of the city, but the workers on the ground cleaning up the rubble, carefully digging up remains of the dead, and paying respects to them was all done by those volunteers. To my knowledge they were not paid for their work. Further, volunteers from all over the country came to Manhattan to help out in the cleanup effort. There were so many they had to wait in line for their turn! The volunteer cleanup effort went on 24 hours a day, not because that was some federal cleanup mandate. They *wanted* to work those hours. They were dedicated to the task and no one was going to hold them back. The tragedy had occurred on 9/11/01, but the cleanup was done 6 months later, I believe. If that had been a purely state run cleanup operation, you can bet it would've taken longer than a year. No matter what any promoter of state welfare says, state bureaucrats don't care for the welfare of a community as much as those *in* the community do. It's just the nature of the beast. Bureaucrats can provide some assistance, but they are bound by laws and regulations that are impartial to one's individual circumstances. This is not always helpful enough. That's where community involvement is needed.

As I said before, talking about federal and state relief, in some cases it was more of an obstruction to relief getting to where it was needed than a help. Private relief efforts were far more effective at efficiently getting the relief supplies and personnel in. The only exception was the National Guard.

I think we'll see Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas show their resilience. Louisiana? I'm not so sure. From what I've been hearing about it lately, it's been one of the most corrupt states in the Union. It's been estimated that about half the people who left New Orleans, at least those who were evacuated to shelters, don't want to go back. We'll have to wait and see.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

I read Webb's article, and his sentiments smack of Marxism. Marx always wished for conditions to get bad enough so that "the revolution" could begin. Not to mention a key phrase he used, "a worker's paradise".

I think in Webb's mind no matter what disasters occur, while there never is enough help to go around, there's always enough so that it doesn't get deplorable, which prevents "the revolution". If anyone were to say that here, I think most people would look askance at that kind of "death wish". It seems to me if Webb had his way, no help would come at all, and no one would help each other, and make everyone in a disaster area so miserable, so angry, so desperate, that "the revolution" he desires would finally come. He secretly wants America to fail miserably, so that a new Socialist utopia can take its place. I think he's right. I don't think it'll happen even in 100 years. God help us if it ever did.

2:48 AM  

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