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The Business of Rebuilding
Network news gives little time to Americansí generosity, as businesses use their profits to help the needy.

By Herman Cain
Sept. 7, 2005

Send this page to a friend! (click here)¬†¬†¬†¬† 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 process.

¬†¬†¬†¬† 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 million.

¬†¬†¬†¬† 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 from gasoline.

¬†¬†¬†¬† 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 The Salvation Army or the American Red Cross.

¬†¬†¬†¬† 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.