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Katrina exposes America’s challenge

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By Todd Cohen

In digging deep to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, American generosity again has shone in a crisis.

But the disaster also uncovered a more selfish side of our society.

As elections for a generation have shown, Americans prefer politicians who promise less government and lower taxes.

Those politicians tell us a marketplace free of government meddling will ensure social and economic growth.

But politicians skew the marketplace for their corporate and fat-cat donors.

And voters, deluding themselves that low taxes lift all boats, are blind to the ongoing human tragedy in their own backyard.

But tax cuts and lotteries will not fix what is wrong in America, and occasional charity for disaster victims will not help millions of Americans who struggle continually for a place to live, an education, a job and, still, a vote.

9/11 and Katrina both exposed the need for leaders with vision and courage.

And like 9/11, Katrina coincided with United Way fundraising to address urgent community needs.

All charities, including United Way, now face a huge challenge.

They must persuade donors and voters that, in addition to helping victims of Katrina, massive investment and sacrifice are needed to heal and repair all of our communities.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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