Friday, September 23, 2011

Greed Rises from Rubble At Ground Zero (January 3, 2002)

Within days and weeks after the World Trade Center disaster, the surge of compassion and sympathy for the victims and their families resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of financial contributions from benevolent Americans from all walks of life. Money poured in from coast to coast with the venerable Red Cross receiving the bulk of gifts.
That selfless display was so awesome - now estimated at $1.3 billion - that it overwhelmed the handful of private organizations collecting the contributions, resulting in chaotic and controversial coordination of how to process the distribution of the pledges. Never before had there ever been such an immense influx of financial bounty.
Millions of Americans, including yours truly, made contributions assuming the mission for the monies would be for victims and their families and all those affected by the tragedy. The key word is ALL - from million-dollar-a-year financial analysts to maintenance workers who kept the World Trade Center spotless.
In fact, in the weeks after the money was promised there was a growing concern whether the flood of donations could be suitably managed and redirected. Once the Red Cross, the United Way’s September 11th Fund and others issued practical redistribution formulas everything seemed to be proceeding smoothly.
However, in the wake of that substantial altruism, pockets of greed - one of the Seven Deadly Sins - have begun to emerge.
Some projected beneficiaries are complaining that the $6 billion compensation plan, which is an element of the bailout agenda for the nation’s airlines as an incentive intended to thwart lawsuits against the troubled industry, proposed by the government - and wholly separate from the private charities - is unfair and plan to challenge it in court.
The private charities have announced an equitable distribution of funds to those in need. However, the government’s proposal will tender payouts based on family income, size and age, which essentially seems reasonable. It would not - and should not - provide benefits to those who receive sizeable life insurance and pension benefits. Nor should everyone be compensated based on the full earning potential of victims. No one can predict someone’s earning potential ten years from now.
Life has a way of taking ill-fated detours, as it did on September 11th.
Government compensation should reduce any economic discrepancies between the recipients. Funds should be doled out to only the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks, not the secondary sufferers who lost jobs or homes. Those disaster victims, numbering in the tens of thousands, can apply for federal assistance through specific government agencies.
More than half a nation away from Ground Zero, collateral complaints about the financial assistance plan for the World Trade Center tragedy have surfaced. Some families of the victims of the dreadful April 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City have expressed anger and frustration - and no doubt a little envy, another deadly sin - over the estimated $1.65 million the government is allotting to WTC victims.
The Midwesterners were never offered any type of government compensation, which they feel - and rightly so - minimizes their losses. The government only paid out death or disability benefits to federal employees.