The headline said it all, “US takes charge in Haiti – with troops, rescue aid”. The President announced that “it will take years for America to rebuild Haiti”. Has anyone in America in the last few days questioned in their minds the above statements? Essentially, the question is, should the U.S. government provide relief to and rebuild Haiti which has been devastated by this week’s massive earthquake?
The answer is easily no. We have enough problems of our own. Now, the do-gooders who will respond to this posting, you know the ones who have no problem using other peoples’ money to rectify the world’s problems, always use their emotions over their head when it comes to situations like Haiti finds itself in right now. There is no question that millions of Haitians are currently suffering. When the smoke settles hundreds of thousands of people will be dead and injured. Hundreds of thousands more will be homeless, orphaned, and truly destitute. Every capable human being has a moral obligation to do their part to alleviate human misery on the small Caribbean island. The question is not whether we should come to the aid of our southern neighbors, but how.
For the U.S. government to be involved in these relief efforts raises too many serious questions. For instance, Uncle Sam has maintained an embargo against Castro’s Cuba for nearly 50 years. It has certainly brought great harm to the common people in Cuba and their economic well-being. Of course, the point of the embargo was to expedite the dictator’s fall. But, what if a natural disaster were to befall Cuba? Would the U.S. come to the aid of Raul Castro in the name of the Cuban people? Is Castro’s island nation one natural disaster away from American aid that would negate close to 50 years of U.S. policy meant to impoverish Cuba and overthrow the communists? Where does our government’s generosity end?
Another issue to consider is the historically corrupt Haitian government. Why should we support it with our money? It is no secret that one reason for Haiti’s incredible poverty is because of its government. For decades, Port-au-Prince has seen one thief after another rule and embezzle what little wealth Haiti has. Even the current president, Rene Preval is a crony of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Preval himself once ignored his own parliament and ruled by presidential decree. In the last election cycle the legitimacy of his win was questioned by poll watchers and the United Nations. It was odd that in an interview just after the quake he mentioned that the tax office in the capital was destroyed before he said anything about the misery of his people. Perhaps the building that provides his sustenance is more important to him than the people he was elected to serve. It would be an outrage if public money from the U.S. was used to rebuild the parliament and presidential palace of a government that historically has stolen from its own people to the point where it has been left powerless to do anything to lessen the suffering of those people in this crisis. What guarantee do we have that our money will not end up in the Swiss bank accounts of the charlatans that rule Haiti?
Lastly, if Washington is going to rebuild Haiti, what should that look like when it is completed? Haiti is the poorest country in this hemisphere. Is Washington going to rebuild it to its previous condition – a squalid domain replete with shacks, shanties, and schools and government buildings that do not conform to contemporary building codes? Or is Haiti going to be rebuilt in our image? Hey, I just had a great idea – let’s propose a Marshall Plan for the entire Caribbean Basin. Let’s spend billions in the region building houses, factories, and of course government buildings so our neighbors can have full employment and never have to again experience being one natural disaster away from oblivion. It will also make Washington look good at home by temporarily stimulating our economy and artificially inflating our GDP numbers.
Besides raising serious questions, Washington coming to the aid of Haiti is of course unconstitutional. Even if you have a liberal (and therefore wrongheaded) interpretation of the Constitution, Congress’ power to “provide for the general welfare” was intended to apply to our homeland and not a foreign country. Whenever, tragedies like this occur and our politicians offer to have the Federal Reserve print more money to help the victims, I remember the poignant tale originally published in “The Life of Colonel David Crockett,” by Edward Sylvester Ellis:
One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:
“Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
“Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”
He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.
Simply, substitute Haiti for the widow of the distinguished naval officer and we have another example of Congress and the president going way beyond their jurisdiction under the Constitution.
As someone who has seen abject poverty in Latin America and Africa first hand, all of us share a humanity and have a moral obligation under either your God or the laws of nature to individually address this catastrophe. The internet makes it simple to give money to whichever charity you feel most comfortable with. George Clooney and MTV are talking about holding a telethon to raise funds. The President and Mrs. Obama are appropriately using their celebrity through public service announcements to raise money. Naturally, people on the ground are also needed to assist with rescue, cleanup, and rebuilding. There are literally thousands of relief agencies around the world, not just American ones, who are there or could be there soon. Give to those organizations or donate your time in some capacity. These efforts would be much more effective than the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. will throw at Haiti. They will ensure that bureaucrats making six figures don’t eat up a large part of every dollar donated. Ultimately, private efforts will eliminate the serious questions government aid raises and preserve the Constitution as the Supreme Law of our land.