A good deal of attention these days is being focused on the federal Victim Compensation Fund, part of the airline-bailout bill, enacted by Congress in the wake of 9/11. This $11 billion fund has been set up to distribute money to victims or their survivors, as long as they waive their rights to sue the airlines, the World Trade Center, and various other involved parties.
Georgetown University law professor Kenneth Feinberg, special master of the fund, estimates that the handouts will average $1.6 million, with a minimum amount of $300,000. The Department of Justice has created a website to allow the families to better estimate their windfall.
Most of the discussion of the fund centers on how “fair” it is, and how under sundry circumstances, a family might not receive its just deserts. But seldom is heard the rather obvious question: Why are the payouts being made in the first place?
Yes, thousands have died, and more have suffered; and yes, the attacks of 9/11 were the worst on American soil since the War of 1812. But note that there are about 2.4 million deaths in the United States every year. Precious few of them leave no survivors, and a goodly number of them are unexpected, or at least inconvenient. None of them seem to require a federal bonanza. Note also, that in other terrorist attacks such as those on the Oklahoma City Federal Building, Pan Am 103, and the recent anthrax episodes, no such fund was set up.
Thus, the deaths of 9/11 have been elevated to a special status–higher even than those caused by other admitted terrorist acts. Moreover, the payout formula takes into account whether the survivors are the beneficiaries of life insurance or pension funds. In such cases, their award will be lowered by the value of those other resources. And I thought that prudence was its own reward.
We have, then, an act of fascistic socialism (before you send me nasty e-mails, please look up the definitions of those words), undreamed of by FDR, LBJ, or the biggest big government fanatic you could ever name. The official reason for the fund’s existence is to limit the number of lawsuits, but a much more effective way to accomplish that would be to enact tort reform, supposedly a priority of George W.
In fact, there will probably be endless lawsuits BECAUSE of the fund, brought by those who believe they weren’t offered enough, and by those who weren’t offered anything, but feel worthy. In the meantime, the airlines, flush with government cash, have no incentive to lower fares, except for certain routes in monkey class, and surely will not improve the mostly pathetic service. Aren’t you glad that they were “de-regulated”?
While airport security will no doubt improve, the root causes of the attacks–our toadying to terrorist supporting nations such as Saudi Arabia, and our porous immigration policy–will not be addressed anytime soon.
Instead, a hideously incompetent national government, failing utterly at its primary responsibility of protecting its citizens, is now attempting to buy off the survivors, albeit with well more than 30 pieces of silver. Given the greed and institutionalized ignorance of present day America, their technique of checkbook subversion will very likely succeed.