Celebs step up to the fundraising plate when Donald Trump won’t
The United States and Central America were recently struck by a series of hurricanes. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have decimated segments of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, respectively. And because of global climate change, destruction like this will become more and more commonplace.
The most important part of places recovering from events like these is aid coming in a timely and correct fashion. And, more importantly, that this aid actually alleviates some of the destruction people are currently living with.
For example, Hurricane Maria will cause losses in the range of $95 billion. This devastation is furthered by Puerto Rico’s location, as the entire island will be impacted. “Agriculture won’t exist in Puerto Rico for at least a year,” local farmers told The New York Times, and it will take at least four to six months for the island’s power grid to be back to normal. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will cause a combined loss valued at close to $200 billion.
Well, at least celebrities, wealthy folks and corporations have been taking a leading role in fundraising and aid efforts. Countless admired and attractive celebrities and professional athletes have put forth their cultural and social capital as a way to provide aid and awareness.
For example, some have hosted benefit concerts with the proceeds going to foundations that will help those in need — to an extent. The #Puberme campaign raised a million dollars. A former Penthouse Magazine owner opened up his $30 million mansion to 70 foster children after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Irma. J.J. Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans, has raised $37 million for Harvey aid through GoFundMe, saying he’ll use the money to take care of, “Things like rebuilding houses, food, schools for the kids.”
Additionally, J.J. Barea — the only Puerto Rican in the NBA — recently stocked Dallas Maverick’s Owner Mark Cuban’s private jet with supplies and took it to Puerto Rico, stating that the island is “completely dead.” Other celebrities associated with Puerto Rico have offered their help as well, with some teaming up with Jetblue’s initiative to “bring help to the people of Puerto Rico and at the same time, bring awareness to the entire world about the humanitarian crisis that is happening on the island.”
These efforts have been heartwarming at times. But they have only contributed minimally to the billions upon billions needed to help those in the places affected. And in truth, it’s really not celebrities’ responsibility to be providing so much of the aid.
President Donald Trump – an insanely well off person – and his extremely well-off administration have done the minimum required to help those impacted by these hurricanes. While Trump has made efforts to provide more money for FEMA and the Housing and Urban Development Department, headed by “super-accountable” Dr. Ben Carson, those efforts have only totaled $15 billion, with half going to Carson’s department. And it was only after visiting Puerto Rico, shooting paper towels like basketballs to a crowd and sparring with the mayor of San Juan that Trump decided to request an additional $30 billion in federal aid toward all U.S. hurricane recovery. While this may sound like a lot, it actually barely makes a dent in the estimated $95 billion in damages to infrastructure, individuals and businesses caused by Maria in Puerto Rico and the $200 billion in damages created by Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida. It’s simply not enough.
Trump claims that it is up to the individual, not the collective society, to provide for themselves and others. Trump provided a clear example of this ideology with his tweet that “Puerto Rico wants everything done for them.” In this tweet, Trump demonstrated an inability to understand that those who most need help often can’t help themselves in these moments.
His job as president was to show American unity and to provide support for Puerto Ricans and their plight. He did not accomplish that.
It’s also important in this discussion to note that important American institutions, such as Congress and the presidency, are trusted less and less by the general population. As a result, concert proceeds, telethons and GoFundMe fundraisers are taking the place of these institutions. This creates a distraction from the lack of action taken by our government — an institution in place supposedly to look out for all our people’s best interest — as the media tends to focus on the actions of celebrities in these kinds of situations.
However, just because the government isn’t working correctly doesn’t mean it should be ignored and replaced. And this is especially true when it’s ignored in favor of the never ending self-promotion of people who can’t create real change or get everyone what they need.
Kirby Wilhelm is a third year Sociology Major. They can be reached at email@example.com.
You can donate to Puerto Rico here.