The Business of Rebuilding
Network news gives little
time to Americansí generosity, as businesses use their profits to
help the needy.
Sept. 7, 2005
¬†¬†¬†¬† As residents of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast begin to
pick themselves up from a devastating natural disaster, theyíre
finding lots of hands reaching out to help. Ordinary Americans and
companies large and small from across the country are reaching out
by the thousands to offer flood victims their time, talents and
financial resources. It will take a long time for some communities
to recover from Hurricane Katrina, but we are once again witnessing
that the most effective compassion comes from the private sector.
¬†¬†¬†¬† While Americans are reaching out, the media are
pointing fingers. The media always seem to point first at the
federal governmentís response in times of national tragedy Ė
demanding that federal agencies do more, spend more and send more.
¬†¬†¬†¬† An example is a September 2 ABC News/Washington Post
poll. The pollsters were so blinded by their bias that all they
could see was the federal governmentís response in the in the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Their questions focused on placing
blame on President Bush and asked people whether the governmentís
response left them ďangry; proud; ashamed; hopeful; or shocked.Ē
¬†¬†¬†¬† A hallmark of our free market economic system is that
when individuals work on pursuing their dreams, in this case
rebuilding cities and states, the positive effects ripple throughout
the economy. Together, those dreams lift a society. Itís been widely
reported that Home Depotís stock value rose with the floodwaters.
But the story behind that is exactly what USA Today reported on
September 1: the companyís massive effort to stock stores in the
devastated region and to prepare for a speedy response. As USA
Todayís Julie Schmit wrote, ďPlywood makers are cranking up
production. Contractors and laborers are lining up to enter the
area. Retailers are redirecting products from as far as Wisconsin to
the Gulf region.Ē
¬†¬†¬†¬† Without a free economic market, the companies that can
help the most wouldnít have the incentive to hurry to the scene.
They know their products and services will be needed Ė so theyíre
doing all they can to assist those who want to begin the rebuilding
¬†¬†¬†¬† Of course, plenty of companies arenít solely concerned
with demand for their products and services. Theyíre going above and
beyond to provide huge amounts of charitable assistance. In a
commendable September 4 article, The Washington Post told the tale
of corporate generosity in Hurricane Katrinaís wake. The outpouring
has included everyone from blanket manufacturers to wireless
communications providers to toymakers. In addition to its quick
response efforts, Home Depot and its foundation donated $1.6
¬†¬†¬†¬† I hope Americans will notice that some of the
often-maligned corporations Ė which the media and the liberals hate
for making money Ė have given some of the biggest gifts. Wal-Mart
pledged $15 million. U.S. drug companies have donated more than $25
million in cash and pharmaceutical supplies.
¬†¬†¬†¬† And what about the oil companies, whom the media
continually vilify for profiting from gasoline? The Post reported
that Exxon Mobil has pledged $7 million; ConocoPhillips and Shell $3
million apiece; Marathon Oil $1.5 million, and the BP Foundation $1
million. Guess where all that disaster-aid money came from? Profits
¬†¬†¬†¬† But will the media recognize that corporate profits are
used for corporate charity? Itís doubtful. They donít want to admit
that Americaís marketplace encourages success, which in turn allows
the successful to be charitable. Itís times like these when that
truth is most obvious.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The generosity of individual American citizens and
corporations was evident after the 9/11 attacks and the recent
tsunami disaster. We are a country of compassionate, resilient and
hardworking optimists, and we are proving that again as we seek to
help those in need. When the people in Louisiana, Alabama and
Mississippi rebuild, it will make the country stronger. Right now
weíre beginning to forge new ties between Americans, as people from
other states make sacrifices to get into the affected regions and
help in any way they can.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Rebuilding is not a question of ďshould we do itĒ Ė
itís merely a question of who will do it. What weíre about to see in
the coming months and years along the Gulf Coast is a dynamic
rebuilding process, and I just hope the media donít get in the way.
¬†¬†¬†¬† When the media look to the federal government to direct
every aspect of American life, it is no wonder that their polls
focus only on the federal governmentís role in the recovery from
disasters. But if you asked me about the American peopleís response,
the answer would be clear: Iím proud. And hopeful. And as long as we
enjoy the incentives Ė and the charity Ė that abound in a free
market society, I will continue to be hopeful about the future no
matter what disasters come our way.
¬†¬†¬†¬† If you would like to make a donation to help those
affected by the hurricane, please visit
Salvation Army or the
¬†¬†¬†¬† Herman Cain is the former president and
CEO of Godfatherís Pizza, Inc. and currently is CEO and president of
T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting
company. He is the National Chairman of the Media Research Centerís
Business & Media Institute.