Otherwise get out of the way

Our tour guide nailed the problem. And he shut up a talkative Canadian woman.

He was driving us through the mess caused by Katrina in New Orleans. He drove us past the ruined homes. Among the homes that had floated two or three blocks away from their foundations.

He gave us chapter and verse about how the disaster came about. The role of the Army Corps of Engineers. (Not a good role.) The failure of local government. The failure of state government. The ridiculous delays caused by the federal government.

At the sight of every pile of rubble, the Canadian woman said “Oh, the government should be helping these folks.” “The government should have (fill in the blank).” “The government needs to clean up this mess.”

The tour guide finally pulled to the curb. “Lady, the government got us into this mess, every bit of it. What we need now is less and less government. We need to get government out of our hair. So that we can clean up this mess and go on with our lives.”

I’m sure he is chuckling these days if he has read what economist Larry Kudlow writes and says about the mess in New Orleans.

Kudlow looked at the $127 billion the federal government has provided for New Orleans’ recovery. Thus far. The tab will keep going up, for sure.

The $127 billion works out to about $425,000 per person. For a family of four this is $1.7 million. Yes, our government is spending $425,000 per person to clean up New Orleans.

And it is doing a ham-handed job of it. Still - after two years of government rescue - FEMA sits on tens of thousands of empty mobile homes. Empty. It ordered them. It shipped them. It continues to hold them. Because some bureaucratic nitwit is sits on the paperwork.

Eighteen months after the flood the federal government had still not decided who would be allowed to rebuild and who would not. Thousands waited for a map from the government that would spell out such things.

In other words, government is not good at running huge projects like this. Surprised? Of course you’re not. You have seen too many government projects run amock.

The Canadian woman ought to know better. Canada’s government-run health system keeps thousands waiting many months for care. It has for as long as it has existed. Canadians have grown so used to waiting for basic healthcare they think it is the same all over the world. My guess is that she is so used to government delays that she still wants government to come cure every problem.

Send these folks a check and get the government out of there. That is Kudlow’s suggestion.

His point is that if government had simply sent the victims money they would have bought good housing and half-rebuilt the city by now. Developers would have swarmed into the city to capture the money the victims had for new housing.

In other words, the private sector and private individuals would have done a better job than government is doing. I suspect he is right.

Government decided after World War II it should help get millions of GIs educated. Suppose it had decided to build colleges for them. It would still be building. And 80-year-olds would be getting their government-issued degrees this very day.

Government instead paid for the education. It let the colleges and universities and GIs work out the details They made a pretty good job of it.

My guess is that if we took a similar approach to a lot of programs, we would get more bang for our tax bucks. Healthcare is no exception. We don’t need government bureaucrats to get between patients and their doctors. We need government to help those who are in need. With money. And to otherwise get out of the way.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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