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Commentary: To Serve and To Protect

By Anthony Ogorek

Buffalo, NY – The words "to serve and to protect" can be found on the doors of police cruisers across America. The phrase "to serve and to protect" sums up what government should be all about. In light of government policies, however, you have to question whom government is serving, and why they seem to protect the strongest, not the weakest.

The fallout from Hurricane Katrina is illustrative of the dichotomy of who is served as well as protected. President Bush is taking a lot of heat for the federal government's tardy response to the devastated states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The city of New Orleans - the only major city in America that is actually below sea level, has been the greatest sink hole of presidential capital since Lyndon Johnson decided to escalate the war in Viet Nam.

Although the federal response was inadequate, the citizens of New Orleans can thank their mayor, C. Ray Nagin for waiting to order a mandatory evacuation of the city, until the full force of the hurricane was upon New Orleans; and then, there were no busses to take city residents to safer quarters. His response was reminiscent of the mayor in the blockbuster movie Jaws, whose responsibility was to protect the citizens of Amity Island, or so they thought. In fact, he was protecting the commercial interests of greedy businessmen.

Unfortunately it appears that a city which has hosted a Super Bowl and is trying to make a name for itself as a Las Vegas of the South, did not want to besmirch its reputation with future conventioneers by declaring a mandatory evacuation unless it were really necessary. Unfortunately it appears that the only major city that is below sea level thought that it made more sense to spend money to get visitors and conventioneers into the city, than developing contingency plans for getting its residents out of the city in the event of a hurricane. It seems as though government failed in its most essential charge, to protect the weak.

The financial effects of Hurricane Katrina provide a lens through which we can view whom is served and protected from a generational perspective. Our national leaders are almost falling over themselves to provide money for reconstruction without even a word spoken on how we are going to pay for this gargantuan bill. Whether they are trying to make amends for their initial lack of responsiveness or using the massive bailout as a means of restoring political capital, we are certainly not serving our children well by protecting ourselves from the tremendous cost of this undertaking.

Just as then Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Benson leveled Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle with his famous admonition, "Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," George W. Bush is no Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln and congress created the income tax in 1862 to pay for Civil War expenses. Congress repealed the income tax ten years later.

We do not need to travel to a devastated area of the South in order to determine who is being served and protected by government. Casino gambling is a hot topic in our community; aided and abetted by the State of New York and the City of Buffalo.

The government tells us that casinos are economic development tools that provide scads of temporary construction and relatively low wage jobs for employees of the casinos.

In return for a small slice of the action, the government has given up all income taxes on the owners of the casinos. They have also given up the ability to tax said establishments since the casinos are built on a sliver of Native American soil. It is well known that gambling, which the last time we checked was a major activity at casinos, can be addictive. Rather than protecting its citizens from an addictive activity, government is not only willing but eager to sacrifice the well being of these citizens, as well as their families, for greater revenue. In the end, who is being served when we sell out those who are weakest among us?

"The Ogorek Letter" with Commentator Anthony Ogorek is a monthly feature of WBFO News.

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