As he filled out his NCAA tournament bracket Wednesday on ESPN (predicting the Kansas Jayhawks as winners) President Barack Obama urged viewers to donate money to relief work in Japan.
But an article in the New York Times and an opinion column from Reuters say that's a bad idea.
"Wealthy Japan is not impoverished Haiti. And many groups are raising money without really knowing how it will be spent — or even if it will be needed," the New York Times reported. "The Japanese Red Cross, for example, has said repeatedly since the day after the earthquake that it does not want or need outside assistance. But that has not stopped the American Red Cross from raising $34 million through Tuesday afternoon in the name of Japan’s disaster victims."
The Reuters column said: "Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it."
At the center of these arguments is this point: Japan is a first-world country and, therefore, they don't really need our help. Give me a friggin' break. Yes, Japan is relatively rich, but not everyone there is rich. And rich people, themselves, are still people. They still suffer at times of tragedy. Their family members can still be killed. Their homes can still be destroyed. Their lives can still be ruined.
I appreciate contrarian arguments as much as the next guy, but I'm with Obama on this one. Go ahead and donate to Japanese relief efforts. Yes, there are poorer countries elsewhere in the world. But that doesn't mean this tragedy in Japan is any less a tragedy.