This and that

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last Thursday Teen Challenge of Mid-America (located just outside Cape Girardeau's city limits) held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of its new Lincoln Education Center. Also, Cliff Ford, chairman of the capital campaign, announced the goal of $2.3 million (which includes funding for two additional buildings) had been reached. Dedication for the entire project has been set for March 8.

It's amazing the achievements that have been made with such limited facilities. My applause and congratulations to all involved, especially the men who participate in and graduate from this faith-based institution.

The upcoming Southeast Missouri State University homecoming Thursday through Sunday has one of the most exciting schedules ever centered on the public opening of the River Campus.

The students and faculty who have already been using the facility are giving it two thumbs up.

I attended the classical guitarist presentation in the new Shuck Recital Hall and was amazed at the acoustical quality. It was exceptional.

And the "Big River" musical production opens Oct. 24 in Bedell Hall.

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released data that showed the poverty rate in the U.S. dropped for the first time in a decade. Our definition of poverty would be considered middle-class or higher in many Third World countries.

The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

* 43 percent of all poor households own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

* 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970 only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

* Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

* The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other cities throughout Europe. These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.

* Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car. 31 percent own two or more cars.

* 97 percent of poor households have a color television. Over half own two or more color televisions.

* 78 percent have a VCR or DVD player. 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

* 89 percent own microwave ovens. More than half have a stereo. And more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

-- Heritage Foundation

The Big Easy's billion-dollar boondoggle: Here's a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?

I'll give you the answer because you'll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief). That's right: a monstrous $127 billion. Of course, not a single media story has highlighted this gargantuan government-spending figure. But that number came straight from the White House in a fact sheet subtitled "The Federal Government Is Fulfilling Its Commitment to Help the People of the Gulf Coast Rebuild." Huh?

The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP.

The White House fact sheet says $24 billion has been used to build houses and schools, repair damaged infrastructure and provide victims with a place to live.

Perhaps all this money should've been directly deposited in the bank accounts of the 300,000 people living in New Orleans. All divvied up, that $127 billion would have come to $425,000 per person.

The fact sheet goes on to say that $7.1 billion went to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the levees; that the U.S. Department of Education spent $2 billion on local schools; and that the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries has awarded more than $2.5 million. The Administration also provided $16.7 billion as part of the largest housing-recovery program in U.S. History.

So the billion-dollar question becomes: Where did the rest of that money go? Meanwhile, according to an article by Nicole Gelinas at the Manhattan Institute, New Orleans has earned the distinct honor of becoming the murder capital of the world. The murder rate is 40 percent higher than before Katrina, and twice as high as other dangerous cities like Detroit, Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C.

Think of this: The idea of using federal money to rebuild cities is the quintessential liberal vision. And given the dreadful results in New Orleans, we can say that the government's $127 billion check represents the quintessential failure of that liberal vision. Remember President Reagan's line during the 1980 campaign about how LBJ fought a big-government spending war against poverty, and poverty won? Well think of all this Katrina spending as the Great Society Redux. And it failed. I suppose the current Bush administration would like to label this "compassionate conservatism." But guess what? That failed, too.

Right from the start, New Orleans should have been turned into a tax-free enterprise zone. No income taxes, no corporate taxes, no capital-gains taxes. The only tax would have been a sales tax paid on direct transactions. A tax-free New Orleans would have attracted tens of billions of dollars in business and real-estate investment. This in turn would have helped rebuild the cities, schools and hospitals. Private-sector entrepreneurs would have succeeded where big-government bureaucrats and regulators have so abysmally failed.

This is the real New Orleans Katrina story. It's a pity that the mainstream media isn't writing about it. Call it one of the greatest stories never told.

-- Lawrence Kudlow, syndicated columnist and the host of CNBC's "Kudlow & Company"

As I've matured:

I've learned that it takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it.

I've learned that whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

I've learned age is a very high price to pay for maturity.

I've learned that we are responsible for what we do, unless we are celebrities.

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

-- From the Internet

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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