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Published: Tuesday, 1/26/2010

Haitians don't need paternalism

In his Jan. 16 op-ed column, "Part of tragedy in Haiti is on foreign nations' shoulders," David Brooks suggests that Haiti's grinding poverty results from Haitians' failure to adopt middle-class values. He asserts that Haitian culture needs some "intrusive paternalism."

Rather than blame the victims, Mr. Brooks might read up on Haitian history and acknowledge the unique burdens foreign governments have heaped upon the Haitian people and their economy.

In 1804, Haiti gained its freedom from France in the world's first and only successful slave revolution. France and the United States answered with a crippling trade embargo.

The United States, which had its own slaves, supported France's demand that Haiti pay France reparations for the slaves who were freed. The reparations, amounting to a crushing $20 billion in today's dollars, took Haiti until 1947 to pay off.

Mr. Brooks is apparently puzzled that countries that have received foreign economic aid, as Haiti has in recent decades, have not done as well as those that have not.

He does not mention the "structural adjustments" the International Monetary Fund required of Haiti as a condition of receiving development loans. These adjustments include cutting public spending, closing "inefficient" public enterprises, and liberalizing Haitian trade policy.

Liberalizing trade meant, for example, that Haiti could not use tariffs to protect its rice production.

At the same time, the United States flooded the Haitian market with subsidized rice that drove Haitian farmers out of business and into the crowded slums of Port-au-Prince, where jobs promised by this neoliberal economic policy did not materialize.

Add to this a long history of U.S.-backed corrupt dictatorships and interference with democratically elected governments, and the result is desperate poverty whose roots are clear enough.

The Haitian people deserve better than Mr. Brooks' paternalistic solutions.

Josie Setzler

Fremont

Large bonuses are to be paid to several Wall Street bankers in the next few weeks, with tens of millions of dollars flowing into their hands simply because they were in the right spot at the right time.

They are being rewarded in spite of the bailouts and double-digit unemployment that have rocked our country.

Meanwhile, another large group of people has lost everything for being in the wrong place at the wrong time - the horrific and devastating earthquake in Haiti. Media groups, local merchants, churches, and public-assistance organizations are asking for donations.

The Haitians have nothing, not even the most basic necessities. It will be a long and hard journey to get this poor island nation on its feet again. It will take time and all the strength these people have, but they will get through this.

Although the financial institutions' rewards are a part of doing business, a simple gesture could do much to erase the sting of this process. Give to the Haitian people in a big way.

America is feeling the pain of a deep recession, but we have much to be thankful for and we have hope.

Haitians, more than anything else, need hope. Don't give because it's the best public relations you can buy.

Give because it's the right thing to do.

Terry Wilkins

Ragan Woods Drive

The Wall Street bonus babies may want to consider doing philanthropic work with their bailout checks.

They should consider donating half of their bonuses to help house, clothe, and feed some of the many people who are suffering financially as a result of their greed. Especially those from AIG, which started this monetary fiasco.

However, they seem to live in a world of their own, where materialism and living large are the norms and humanitarian considerations are not on the agenda.

Middle-class Americans will continue to shoulder the brunt of this load, as they always do.

If we wait long enough, maybe reality will hit the Wall Street elite and they will realize that Main Street investors are responsible for everything that they enjoy.

Marvin Gagnet

Commonwealth Avenue

Elected officials can act as diplomats or politicians. When they act as diplomats, the good of their country comes before their self-interest. When they act as politicians, self-interest and re-election come first.

Northwest Ohio will lose a diplomat when Mark Wagoner leaves the Ohio Senate.

One of his recent votes, unpopular with many in his own party, saved our children's schools from financial ruin.

It is time for Toledo City Council members to think and act as diplomats, not politicians. The $44 million deficit is not just Mayor Mike Bell's problem. It is a problem for every council member.

Toledoans will be looking for acts of diplomacy.

Ross Graves

Birchtree Drive

Reality is telling us to prepare for a new way of life. Indications are that gasoline prices could reach $6 to $8 a gallon this summer. Support for 250 million to 300 million vehicles in the United States and 800 million globally is unsustainable.

Yet a group of Toledo housing developers has announced a massive new subdivision in Waterville near the new Route 24.

Toledo City Councilmen D. Michael Collins, Adam Martinez, and Rob Ludeman expect, even demand, immediate redevelopment of the former Southwyck Mall property.

Why would anyone think that the housing or retail market is going to keep levitating?

What makes anyone think autos are viable mass transportation alternatives anymore?

Where is the capital orgy necessary to finance all these wishes?

Fred Kutz

Genesee Street

Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg's Jan. 13 article, "Local teen goes to the mat to achieve a life well-lived," deserves praise. His piece about Nick Hyndman, the Perrysburg wrestler who lives with a disability, is beautifully written, free of pity and old jargon.

It portrays a young man and his dream, a family that didn't buy a premise based on low expectations, a wrestling coach who didn't say "can we?" or "should we?" but "how do we?", and the impact the young man has had on his fellow athletes and school community.

Stories like this move us forward toward a more understanding and inclusive community. I am proud to share this story around the country and beyond.

Thanks to Mr. Hackenberg for writing a story the right way for all the right reasons. I hope other writers, reporters, and editors will use it as a positive example.

Daniel Wilkins

Director of Public Relations and Community Partnerships

The Ability Center

of Greater Toledo

Hundreds of thousands of people are dead and dying in Haiti, and The Blade puts stories about pit bulls on the front page.

We've already had to read all about the doggie scandals for the past two months. Get a life.

S. LOWERY

Parkside Boulevard



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