Obama Pledges $100 Million to Haiti, But …

Obviously, the people in Haiti, more floundering than recovering in the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake near the capital city of Port-au-Prince, are in desperate need of food, clean water, and medical supplies and attention.  Upon hearing earlier that President Barack Obama has committed $100 million in taxpayer-funded aid to the ravaged Caribbean nation, however, two thoughts crossed my mind — why he didn’t commit more, and whether any amount would be enough.

Flash back to February of last year, when the newly inaugurated Obama promised a whopping $900 million in taxpayer-funded aid money to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip, money intended to help the Palestinian people rebuild from damage caused by Israeli military forces which went after Hamas fighters in response to rocket attacks on the Israeli people, money which was destined for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip rather than the West Bank, where things are more insulated from Hamas, and where Obama’s predecessor had previously sent roughly $80 million in aid in order to ensure that it did not fall in the hands of the terrorist organization

Of course, the New York Times pointed out at the time that the Obama administration assured the American people that the $900 million was to be given through nongovernmental organization so as not to fall into the hands of Hamas — but considering that this administration cannot even assess the successes or failures of its so-called “stimulus” package without fabricating numbers and making up whole congressional district, excuse me if my confidence wasn’t at an all-time high that our taxpayer money would go to rebuilding damage and not to restocking arms and rockets.

Nevertheless, the people of Haiti endured a natural disaster, a catastrophic event which–contrary to what nincompoops like Pat Robertson and Danny Glover might think–they did not bring upon themselves, and they will receive $800 million LESS in aid from the American government than was sent to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an area which only incurred any damage at all because Hamas fighters made a conscious decision to hide behind innocent Palestinian women and children and lob rockets into Israel, intentionally targeting schools and hospitals and shopping centers.

As for my second thought, which pondered whether any amount of aid money sent to Haiti would truly be enough, consider what New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote today about the real tragedy here being poverty, not an earthquake.

On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.

So why, Brooks asks, is Haiti so poor?  There are a number of reasons, he posits, but the one which was more intriguing to me than the others–perhaps because it wil be so much more difficult for left-leaning folks to understand and admit to–is that culture is largely at the center of global poverty.

Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.

As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

Liberals across the world want to throw more money at the problem.  They want to get governments more involved.  None of it, however, will work.  Obviously, we need to get Haiti back on its feet, and at the end of the day we’ll see that private donations and help will likely exceed anything provided by government.  But from that point forward, the real change has to come from the bottom up, and with so many charitable organizations having been on the ground in Haiti before this terrible disaster, I can’t help but wonder what, if anything, can be done in the future.



  1. sirmatthew says:

    Some are saying Obama and company learned the lesson of Katrina and responded quickly to the crisis in Haiti. The only difference being New Orleans is part of the US while Haiti is not. Some will chastise me for being selfish or self-centered, but why are we giving away $100 million in aid to any country when our own homeland is drowning in debt? I’m sure you’ve seen the numbers related to our unemployment and deficit. There comes a time when we have to stand on our own two feet before we can attempt to reach out to help others who are down.

  2. Boston Blackie says:

    The machete weilding thugs are already out attacking and looting the workers.
    How long before Obamama opens the floodgates to the Haitians to come to America, similiar to the Mariana Boatlift from Cuba back during the Carter days. I guess after all the Hamas terrorists took their cut of the 900 million the net if any to the people was probably less than 100 million. Why do you think Arafat’s widow is living in luxury right now in Paris. No denying this is a terrible tragerty and we need to help the innocent victims BUT will anything ever change in Haiti after this.

  3. Gail B. says:

    Can he do that — over a certain amount — without Congressional approval?

  4. Lilly says:

    I remember our church having Missionaries there all of the time when I was a kid. Working with kids, medicine, building homes, sending money etc. They still do. We do need to help them stabilize and rebuild right now but they do need to stand up for themselves as soon as they can. I read that their President or dictator or whatever he is was complaining because he can’t live in “his” home (palace). Like he doesn’t have anything else to worry about right now???
    Some are comparing it to Katrina but I think it should be compared to Indonesia and the tsunami.

  5. sirmatthew, I don’t think you’re selfish; I’ve had those same thoughts. That and the fact they they can’t send more money and troops to Afghanistan, yet they can throw it to other countries and take private jets to Copenhagen.

    The thing is, the American people (and others) are so generous that they will step up and give…which they already have and will continue to do.

    I “survived” the ’89 quake in S.F., and the reason we had so few deaths IS the kind of infrastructure in place. As Brooks points out, this really is a poverty issue. These countries have not been able to rise above it, due to oppression and dictators. We have to quit sending money; the money goes straight to the hands of the oppressors and not to the people. Billions upon billions have poured into Haiti, and yet look at them. It’s time to wise up and quit supporting fascist dictators.

  6. JAN says:

    Sirmatthew: My husband and I spoke of the very thing you posted. He stands on the side that we should be taking care of our own needs right now and not straining our already weakened economy. My thoughts are that if and/or when a disaster happens on our soil I sure hope we have countries come to our aid regardless of the economic situation.

  7. 2010, 2012 says:

    $200 million for 13 GITMO prisoners to the teeny-tiny country of Paulo in good times.
    $100 million to tens of thousands dead tens of thousands injured in a disaster zone.

  8. YIKES! says:

    if obama wasnt spending foolishly at whim to line the pockets of his chosen he would be in a position to look respectful about this. little Japan sent $500,000 before obama even pledged anything.

  9. YIKES! says:

    estimated $215 million to try already confessed GITMOS in NY

    yup – obama is not a very smart man at all.

  10. chuck says:

    Based on the above responses, your readers should be against giving your beloved Israel any more money. Last year we gave them about $3 BILLION in US taxpayer money. We should all listen to Jan and her husband.

  11. Rob in Katy says:

    Plain and simple, Charity is not the work of the Federal Government, is a personal sacrifice that individuals should make.

    If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right: to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. – Horatio Bunce


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