The Stinge-O-Meter, which the United Nations uses to measure the generosity of its members, is busted. The needle is spinning wildly, out of control.
Jan Egeland, the chief bureaucrat in charge of the U.N. emergency relief, such as it is, gave the Stinge-O-Meter a mighty spin in the wake of the Asian tsunami and read the miserable verdict: The United States and the nations of the West are "stingy."
Mr. Egeland, a Norwegian who throws up at the idea that anyone should spend his own money without bureaucratic guidance, says the trouble is rooted in the fact that Americans are not taxed enough. Americans would love to pay more taxes if only they could. Collecting more swag and turning more of it over to the United Nations would enable Kofi Annan to invite a few hundred more bureaucrats, maybe even thousands, to join the easy ride through Manhattan. Isn't that what we all want?
The New York Times and The Washington Post, always on the scout for mean things to say about Americans other than their own grand selves, agreed with Mr. Egeland's first reading of the Stinge-O-Meter. "Are we stingy?" asked the New York Times. "Yes."
America the stingy fits with The Post's view of a world where all news is bad, the sun shines only on the rich, the rain falls only on the frail, and everyone is a victim — of homophobia in Peoria, AIDS in Afghanistan, an outbreak of teenage pimples in San Diego, a tsunami in Sri Lanka, the scarcity of vegetarian restaurants in Topeka, a woman who got winked at in Cleveland, a shortage of condoms in St. Paul. Some days there are so many victims there's hardly any room for the news on Page One.
The early verdict on the Asian tsunami, naturally, is that it's all George W.'s fault. Noting that the president had doubled the American aid commitment, The Post reported that the doubling came "amid complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions."