Joke Number One,:
The mobile homes started arriving sometime in October, pulling into a 282-acre site at the Hope, Ark., airport, one after another, row upon row. They kept on coming, week after week and month after month, convoys of sometimes 100 at a time lugged by trucks that clogged the roads into town, queuing up on a runway and on the adjacent gumbo-like soil, side to side, front to back.
They were supposed to be shelters for the thousands of victims left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, waiting here to be shipped out, reflections of the goodwill of a nation. But they never left. Instead, they kept on coming, kept on piling up, like logs at a dam. Today, 10,777 of the units sit stockpiled in Hope, $300 million in taxpayer money gridlocked in bureaucracy, 450 miles from New Orleans with no place to go.
And more than five months after Katrina hit, the scene has become a symbol to locals almost on a par with the Superdome of the federal government’s ineptitude in dealing with the most serious natural disaster in recent U.S. history. Part of the problem, it turns out, is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent millions on mobile homes to house hurricane victims, but its own regulations say they can’t be installed in the floodplain zones where the hurricane hit.
Joke Number Two,:
Here’s a pop quiz on gender equality. In which part of the world are women most likely to reach the highest rungs of power? Choice A offers new moms 12 weeks of maternity leave, almost no subsidized child care, no paid paternity leave and has a notoriously hard-driving business culture. Choice B gives them five months to three years of paid time off from their jobs after having kids. Millions put their offspring into state-sponsored day-care centers for several hours a day. Government agencies, full of female directors and parliamentarians, protect workers at the expense of business and favor a kinder, gentler corporate culture. So which place is better for women who want to make it to the top? If you guessed A, the United States, you’d be right. If you chose B, Europe, think again.
It sounds impossible, but it’s true. For all the myths of equality that Europe tells itself, the Continent is by and large a woeful place for a woman who aspires to lead. According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden — supposedly the very model of global gender equality — they hold 29 percent.
Let’s keep those wonderful big government solutions rolling, folks.