U.S. donated enough to tsunami, feel no need to give more

By now the sting is beginning to wear off for many Americans from a comment made by a United Nations official several weeks ago who alluded to the United States' initial tsunami disaster relief efforts as "stingy." It shouldn't, and neither should our sense of "stinginess."

The tsunami that hit Southern Asia was no doubt an event of tragic proportions. But, to be perfectly frank, it is not our responsibility. While we as Americans mourn and share in grief with the rest of the world, we must put an end to the world's assumption that it is entitled to turn to America to bear the financial burden whenever such a tragedy occurs.

President Bush and our government responded both graciously and in violation of our U.S. Constitution with an initial pledge of $35 million, as well as deploying an aircraft carrier to the disaster region. Then came the "stingy" comment, typical of the United Nation's lack of appreciation and general attitude toward America. But that is to be expected from a body whose greatest accomplishment will be the day when it disbands. However, that is a different column for a different time. Still, the United Nations must know what they are doing - its jab at the United States resulted in an increase in funding to $350 million, with the possibility of more to come in the future.

Before the cries begin about the lack of heart in opposing federal tsunami aid, it is important to consider that there are plenty of other disasters within our own territorial boundaries that could use the assistance of our own government. Recent mudslides have caused havoc in California, and Florida has yet to fully recover from the devastation of this past year's hurricanes. Yet the majority of present focus on relief efforts is directed toward Southern Asia. To be fair, the tsunami was larger in scale, but these other events actually happened within the United States.

Opponents will argue that the United States is presently spending money waging a global war on terrorism and therefore ought to give in a disaster such as the tsunami as well. In making such as argument, they miss the point. Nations of the world turn to America in the first place because we are a nation of laws, an unshakable structure that has endured through many crises of our own. That foundation, in large part, is grounded in the Constitution, as well as our tradition as a nation of individuals living according to free will.

That constitution grants the president of the United States and Congress the authority to allocate funds to wage war and defend America. Such is the objective that is currently being achieved during our military campaign in the Middle East, no matter how controversial such action may be. However, that constitution from which our laws are derived does not grant the government the authority to disperse foreign aid, no matter how heart-wrenching a disaster may be. And this tsunami on which taxpayer dollars are presently being spent is unavoidably an unconstitutional federal expenditure neither mandated nor justified by the governing documents of America.

So while the $350 million and military aid receive all the attention, more appropriate was the action by Congress in passing legislation co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to allow Americans who donate to the tsunami relief efforts during the month of January to deduct that money on their 2004 tax returns. This action is certainly preferable to the action of Bush, who upon first granting relief said, "We pledged an initial $35 million in relief assistance." We? What Bush, and probably millions of others, failed to realize is that every cent of that $35 million, and subsequent $350 million, rightfully belongs to the U.S. taxpayers, and was not the federal government's money to give away.

The United States ought to contribute funds and assistance to help aid victims of the recent tsunami. But that aid should be coming from individuals who make donations on their own free will, not a donation made by the U.S. government using funds that have been coerced from the people through the brute force of taxation. It is a myth that the U.S. government is the most compassionate collection of individuals on the face of this earth. The truth is that the American people are the most compassionate individuals on this earth.

So by all means, Americans, donate to help the tsunami victims if you so desire. But just don't forget that because the federal government spends your money as if it were its own, it will be your second donation.

Timothy Meyer is a senior in the School of Communication.

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