Katrina fraud: Don’t blame the "victims"!? Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, June 17, 2006
Sometimes you read an editorial and wonder what the writer was smoking at the time of putting the old -30- at the end.
In an LA Times editorial entitled "A Hurricane of Fraud", is a subtitle which says "FEMA did mismanage Katrina relief, but it's wrong to blame victims for spending irresponsibly."
It is? Why in the world is that? And just to be clear, it wasn't "irresponsible" spending. It was fraudulent spending. To the tune of about 1.4 billion dollars.
In the first paragraph you get an indication of why this sort of thinking is on display in the subtitle.
MOVE OVER, RECKLESS CONSUMERS. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has outdone your irresponsible spending by racking up a debit card bill so outrageous it could have been created using Mad Libs. Sex-change operations, vacations to the Dominican Republic and wild nights at strip clubs were all bought on the government's dime by both con artists and legitimate victims of Hurricane Katrina. But try to keep that knee from jerking — although FEMA's oversight was lacking, wasted money is an inevitable byproduct of providing rapid emergency assistance.
First of all, it wasn't the "government's dime". It never is. It was mine. And while FEMA may not have done the best job in oversight, what those who bought vacations and sex change operations did was commit fraud on my dime. Secondly, those who committed this fraud weren't "victims". They were con artists.
I'm sorry, contrary to the LA Times editorial advice, I do blame them, just as I blame a car jacker or a burgler for his or her acts. And every effort should be made to recover the money and to prosecute those who fraudulently misrepresented themselves and spent it. While it is fine to rake FEMA over the coals for its inept oversight it is not fine to excuse those who defrauded the real victims who were actually in need of those funds.
It's easy, and necessary, to criticize FEMA's across-the-board incompetence in responding to the largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War. But obsessing about the spending habits of refugees comes perilously close to blaming the victim.
This is just nonsense on a stick. Those that used the money for things like vacations, strip clubs and sex change operations weren't "victims". They are crooks. And the LA Times should know better than to try to cast crooks as "victims".
Legitimate victims....committing Fraud, turning them from ’victims’ into criminals.
Reminds of the Python sketch where they arrest a perp for murdering Bishops (on the landing) and he says "it’s a fair cop, but society is to blame" And the detective-parson says "that’s all right, we’ll be chargin them too".
Same thing, only this clown isn’t trying to be funny.
What the LA Times editorialist wants to avoid is the difference between the words, "Victim" and "Claimant."
FEMA is really a government-mediated Insurance Provider, and, when individuals ask it for help, they become "Claimants", because they are filing a "claim." And, it is common knowledge that fraudulent claims are raising premiums for Americans in the auto, home and medical insurance sectors.
Now, if "Hurricane of Fraud’s" author(s) had adopted the Insurer/Claimant lexicon, the FEMA-Fraud story would look just like any other, daily, banal insurance-fraud story. It is an old, re-rehearsed story of petty crime: cons trying to get a free-ride from an insurance agency. Yawn...snoooze.
And it doesn’t fit their "Katrina" narrative (Federal Blame, Victms of Bush Incompetency).
So, by (deliberately?) avoiding Insurance-industry jargon, the piece’s writer can divert her readers from considering the criminality of FEMA’s perjuring claimants. Instead - and in perfect accord with the LAT’s established Katrina-meme, the author exploits this semantic-shroud to point a finger back at the "Federal Response."
When I first saw this, I thought of the old engineering saying: "Fast, cheap, or good. Pick two." We wanted relief fast and it could either be cheap (no oversight) or good (oversight). Good would have slowed it up, so we went with cheap. I don’t mind the fraud, so long as we punish those who defrauded the taxpayers, although I don’t expect that to be a popular sentiment.
Wasn’t there a fair amount of fraud discovered among the 9/11 claimants? Is anyone bitching about that?
This post strikes me as somewhat contradictory to the views I’ve come to believe you hold, McQ. While the behavior of the "victims" of Katrina may be despicable, and admittedly I haven’t researched the legality of the claimants behavior, but it doesn’t strike me as illegal. My understanding is that FEMA started handing out $2000 debit cards. Now the intent of those cards was clearly for food, shelter, and clothing, but limiting the purchase items to those that are "government-approved" goes against the choice and the smaller government that is not required to monitor or program approved purchases, that I assumed libertarians prefered.
Starting with a presumption that our government has some (albeit minor) role in helping those that cannot help themselves (e.g., any form of wealth transfer) you can either establish that in the form of direct cash payments to the poor, or you can do it in the manner that the government has done it since LBJ, with separate payments for "necessities" - and all the government dependence that engenders, and the beuracracies and political constituents they create. If the latter is used as we’ve seen, the policial lobby power created is huge, the failures of government are amplified, and a large portion of the recipients become addicted to government’s paternalism. If the former is used, there will always be stories of those who abuse the system, isn’t this better than the alternatives?