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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Are Puerto Rico’s leaders milking the U.S. Government for all it’s worth?

It’s a similar kind of anticipation folks feel every Christmas season, that being the impending landfall of a major hurricane.

Only the thought of winds blowing at well over a hundred miles an hour, waves surging over the highest seawalls and rainfall so intense and prolonged it’s measured in feet rather than inches is not something that’s pleasure-inducing to contemplate for those in the path of the storm itself. Having participated in the lead-up to a couple such (tropical) storms I can say they bring a sense of dread and community at the same time.

Trump in Puerto RicoIt’s not like that for other types of natural disasters. Earthquakes, for example, strike without warning so Matt Drudge can’t draw extra millions of click-throughs to his news website waiting for them and tornados are just too quick to materialize and short in duration to allow for much anticipatory effect.

Hurricanes make good theater for television audiences due to their awesome and widespread destructive power and perhaps because they all have their own names. There’s never been an “Earthquake Earl” or a “Tornado Tom” that I’m aware of.

But in recent times, perhaps originating with Hurricane Katrina (in New Orleans) in 2005, these monster weather occurrences have been riddled with political narratives – and I’m not just talking about environmental activists salivating over climate change. In each case this year’s three biggest hurricanes were followed closely with self-interested politicians and media commentators claiming federal authorities weren’t doing enough to help with recovery in the aftermath of the devastation.

Of course many of the accusations were directed at President Donald Trump by leftists looking to score political points against a commander in chief they view as uncaring and vulnerable to such denunciations. But a lot of it, at least by appearances, has also been driven by people hoping to make a buck and get new “stuff” to replace faltering old infrastructure and buildings knocked down or carried away by nature.

Such definitely seems to be the case in Puerto Rico.

Wesley Pruden wrote at the Washington Times, “The suffering in Puerto Rico is such the likes of which few on the mainland, save Americans on the Gulf Coast, have lately seen. Whole towns have been blown and washed away, highways ruined, hospitals devastated, the electric grid that furnishes power to the entire island virtually eliminated, grocery stores swept away, and the island left marooned in an angry sea when the only international airport was closed for business…

“The wind had hardly subsided, the tide barely receded, before certain politicians began demanding where was Donald Trump. With a little luck, they might render the president a feeble caricature of George W. Bush, who famously flew over New Orleans on his return from a visit to Prairie Chapel Ranch in Texas to inspect the damage from the luxury of Air Force One. The pilot dipped a portside wing to give the president a better view.”

Pruden goes on to dispute the left’s narrative as to the quality of the federal endeavor in Puerto Rico. Trump himself visited the island this week and no one with common sense would doubt that the real estate developer side of the president would offer many salient suggestions.

Most reasonable people would agree the federal government has a duty to assist in the event of a hurricane but the extent of that burden is certainly open to discussion and if need be, argument.

It seems clear the feds are in the best position to support local authorities with life-saving operations and delivering basic necessities to people isolated by nature’s wrath. That’s what we pay taxes for and it’s not unreasonable to expect someone with an American flag on their uniform to hold out a helping hand when Americans need a rescue as well as to provide temporary quarters when folks are in need of shelter and something to eat and clean water to drink.

There’s also a good case to be made that the federal government can get the rebuilding process started for those who lost everything to an act of God they might have foreseen but failed to adequately plan for. Not everyone has the resources to afford insurance and we can’t have people living indefinitely in shelters or out on the street because they have nothing left to their names.

Compassion is compassion. As Americans we appreciate and enjoy opportunities to help people. It’s the Christian thing to do.

But the obligation ends there. Having personally witnessed recovery scenarios for everything from earthquakes and wildfires in California to tornados and tropical storms in the mid-Atlantic, there should be no requiring the federal government to completely replace anyone’s previously modest home with something bigger, better and more modern.

I was in California during and after the Northridge earthquake in 1994 and I can attest that many, many people (including some I know) took advantage of low interest federal disaster loans to devote money to things completely unrelated to crumbled dwellings or recuperation from the natural event.

Some law school colleagues of mine were surprised when I refused to take an offer of a deferred low interest federal loan to pay off my entire school debt instantly rather than abide by the terms I’d agreed to when borrowing the money. The flat-out usury didn’t end there as likely hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Southern Californians not only rebuilt, they upgraded.

FEMA inspectors were out for months assessing damage and cutting checks. Really? Pay for all the damage?

The same was definitely true in fire ravaged areas in the Golden State in recent years. We feel bad for those whose homes were destroyed partly due to overbuilding and lack of rain but should you have located that mansion on an unprotected hillside in the first place?

Particularly egregious, perhaps, were public institutions that took full advantage of federal recovery programs to build big shining monuments and erect bigger and grander buildings to replace the old ones rendered unsafe for some reason. I won’t name names but it wouldn’t be hard to discover infrastructure that’s a little over 20 years old now and compare it to what was there before.

No one’s saying folks shouldn’t improve their own lot in life when given the opportunity to replace the aged and decaying, but in cases like Puerto Rico there’s no federal duty to pay for everything – which by the looks of it is the way some of the island’s corrupted leftist government officials want it.

Such a line of thought finds its defenders in Washington, too. Democrat maven Donna Brazile wrote in The Hill, “Our stricken fellow citizens may have lost everything with no ability to pay for the repairs or rebuilding. Their ability to recover will come from many sources, including waiting on much needed help. They need us at our best: united, determined to help — and civil.

“The Trump administration must take the lead in helping hurricane-struck Americans recover and rebuild. Unity springs from mutual respect — from setting aside the blame game — and working together in faith and trust.

“President Trump needs to work with local officials regardless of their partisan affiliation. The country is desperately looking for leadership. It’s time for the president to answer the call and help lend a hand to the recovery and rebuilding of our country from three powerful storms.”

Um, isn’t this exactly what Trump is doing? Earlier in her article Brazile took Trump to task for his tweets last weekend that refuted San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz’s version of the relief efforts. There have also been a number of conflicting reports on the local government’s competency in the crisis similar to complaints lodged against Louisiana state and local officials after Katrina.

A boatload of the blame was placed back then on George W. Bush. There’s no way Trump would stand for less than a top-notch response under his watch. Brazile and other Democrats (like Hillary Clinton) are just trying to damage Trump politically when they themselves could not possibly do a better job in helping these people. It’s much easier to point fingers regardless of the facts on the ground.

Roger L. Simon wrote in PJ Media over the weekend, “The latest of the many entries in this ‘Great American Victim Derby’ is Puerto Rico -- or at least a significant part of the island's leadership.

“Who will win this derby?

“It's anybody's guess, but the thing about playing the victim game is that even -- perhaps especially -- when you do win, you're even more likely to continue to be a victim and play some more.  Victimhood is self-perpetuating -- a spiritual, emotional, political, and economic rerun out of the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ Every year it's the same thing and nothing changes.  Something bad happens and there you go again, drinking from the trough until you pass out like a fraternity boy being hazed for the thousandth time.”

Simon says in a perfect world Puerto Ricans would use the hurricane recovery as a learning experience and take measures to improve the island’s previously (before the storm) awful power grid and infrastructure.

By implication the U.S. territory could also stand to upgrade some of its political leadership and make everyone’s lives better in the process. Effective leadership goes a long way in managing what life throws at you. It’s something the Democrats should absorb instead of pointing fingers all the time and complaining about Trump.

The generosity of the United States government and its citizens in the aftermath of natural disasters is unbounded but should not be limitless. We can only hope the people of Puerto Rico accept assistance with thankful hearts and not act entitled to permanent abundance.

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