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  • Forget Earmarks, FEMA Declarations Show Federalization Run Amok

    The 2010 hurricane season ended yesterday, utterly failing to measure up to the Category 5 predictions made in the spring. The failure of a single hurricane to strike the United States makes it five years since a hurricane of Category 3 strength or higher has struck the United States. You remember 2005, right? The year Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma pummeled the Gulf Coast, FEMA Director Mike Brown, and President George W. Bush. Those were the busy days of FEMA.

    Despite no hurricanes striking the U.S. and only one minor earthquake, FEMA has issued 106 declarations in 2010 and is projected to end the year (1/20/10 to 1/19/2011) with 123 issued declarations. President Barack Obama is on pace to close his first two years in office with 231 FEMA declarations, which would be the most issued by a president in his first two years and he did it without one hurricane striking the United States. To put President Obama’s pace in perspective, President Ronald Reagan’s FEMA issued 228 declarations over the course of his entire presidency. President Bill Clinton, current holder of the most FEMA declarations in one year (157 in 1996), only mustered 115 declarations in his first two years. Even the prodigious FEMA under President Bush hit 220 declarations in his first two years.

    Even if we just look at Major Disaster Declarations — the most severe FEMA declaration — President Obama already has issued 79 in 2010, which is a single year record for FEMA. President Clinton’s 1996 record year only saw 75 Major Disaster Declarations. President Bush, burned by 2005, matched President Clinton’s 75 Major Disaster Declarations in 2008. With 50 days remaining in the year, President Obama sits tied with President Bush for the most Major Disaster Declarations over a two year period with 138 (Bush hit that mark in 2007-2008). If Las Vegas took odds on such things, it would be a pretty safe bet to make that President Obama will end the year as the two year record holder.

    This madness must end, as it symbolizes the federalization of our lives in a heretofore unprecedented manner.

    From 1787 to 1992, virtually every natural disaster that occurred in America was handled entirely by states and localities and without any federal involvement. Starting in 1993, we have federalized more natural disasters every presidential administration. From tornadoes to floods to fires to storms, events that just twenty years ago were ignored by Washington are today treated as if a Category 5 hurricane has hit. This federalization, like Medicaid, transportation, and earmarks, has created a growing level of dependency by states and localities on FEMA to the point where state emergency management budgets have been cut knowing that FEMA would subsidize the state’s natural disaster functions.

    As a result, states aren’t prepared for the routine and FEMA spends too little time preparing for the truly catastrophic. Perhaps with the needed federal budget cuts, the Congress will heed our calls over the last four years to amend the Stafford Act to eliminate certain categories of natural disasters from being eligible for FEMA declarations and substantially increasing the threshold requirement to obtain a FEMA declaration:

    The Senate couldn’t kill earmarks. Maybe it can handle FEMA.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Forget Earmarks, FEMA Declarations Show Federalization Run Amok

    1. ZOLTANNE in Virginia says:

      FEMA is little more than another bureaucratic State-entitlement program for bailouts when States are incapable of funding their own States' needs. Also, FEMA provides too much "disaster assistance" to the public for replacement personal property and rewards only those who have no home or rental insurance. There is no limit to individuals filing claims — anyone in an affected area can receive "disaster assistance" each time a new disaster is proclaimed! In hurricane-prone areas like New Orleans, some recipients of FEMA-money get their yearly income in this manner. It is outrageous, yet here again, the Feds are rewarding those are irresponsible, not self-reliant.

      This entitlement model for individuals goes beyond the basic personal "disaster assistance", as well. FEMA provides State-bound assistance in the form of weather-related BAILOUTS. Under the guise of weather, difficulties or breakdowns in out-of-date infrastructure are being covered through Presidentially-declared Federal programs. We watch homeowners and renters receive maximum payouts for things as stupid as "sewer backup" if they have no insurance and a big rain falls. Rain! If it's a hard rain and a city's waterworks cannot handle it, sewer backups happen. Now, instead of having insurance coverage, use FEMA and the free FEMA-money for a nice little bailout!

      How does FEMA continue to get away with this type of mass entitlement program? I resent tax-dollars going to someone for a sewer backup in Detroit because the city has been unable to correctly manage their own Public Works Department and make repairs as should be required. Check the FEMA website for past disasters and count how many disasters are in entitlement-prone regions, dependency areas versus self-reliant states. What would FEMA do if the heavy-snow and seriously cold weather states asked for Federal declarations every time it snowed?

    2. TJS, FL says:

      Bulldoze DC.

    3. Prof. Richard Sylves says:

      Presidential Declarations of Major Disaster have been issued since 1950 by presidents Truman to Obama and a great many were issued before 1993. You are correct in identifying a ramp up in the annual number of declarations but the trend begins with Bush1 in 1989 not in 1993. You should have also looked a governor requests for declarations that have been turned down by these presidents. See http://www.peripresdecusa.org, my website sponsored by the Public Entity Risk Institute and completely free and non-commercial. Your case would have been strenghtened. You overlooked the impact of 9/11 and the new powers accorded the president in the Homeland Security Act of 2003. These have opened the door to melding Stafford Act declarations with terrorism focused declarations. Also there are now more "federal interest" declarations (Challenger shuttle break up, Cerro Gordo fire caused by Forest Service prescribed burn, etc.). Remember, 49 states must operate under balanced budget rules and localities work with revenue constrained budgets, so the margin available for them to handle disaster contingencies of any type is extremely low, especially owing now to the Great Recession. I am glad you addressed this topic but be careful to consider a fuller range of factors pushing toward federalization. Finally, Congress has punished FEMA several times for proposing tighter rules of state and county disaster or emergency qualification; the most strident dress down came during the middle of the Reagan administration. Lawmakers see the subjectivity and discretion the presidents may exercise in issuing disaster declarations as something that ensures the that anomalous or marginal event their state or district suffers will not be ruled ineligible in advance. Presidential declarations are a type of national shock absorber that should allow flexibility and freedom of action.

    4. Bobbie says:

      a little skiddish isn't he? If there is a means to waste obama is in full support, enhancing his lack of: common sense, good judgment and integrity. This country cannot afford this derelict, corrupt, indignant leadership who shows no amount of inner strength.

    5. JD, SF, CA says:

      Too bad nobody at this site has a clue on where the heavy bleeding is in Federal Spending.

      FEMA Fact – In 2004 and 2002 Wayne County Michigan (DETROIT) received MINOR declarations for SNOW and flooding. The total cost was less than $5 million.

      FEMA Fact – from Feb 5 to Mar 9 2010 there were 14 Declarations for HEAVY SNOW in Midwest and Eastern states – the so called " heavy-snow and seriously cold weather states.

      FEMA Annual Budget – $6 Billion

      Federal Deficit – $14 TRILLION, 2009 $1.4 trillion, 2010 $1.4 trillion.

      Cut FEMA to save the Federal budget? It's a little out of season for April Fool's gags.

      The USA is second to no other in disaster response, the military and space programs. Idiots like those at Heritage want to turn the USA into a third rate, third world country.

      FEMA and the military can and have become more efficient. They can do better. But cutting here to save the budget is putting a finger in a dike. It exposes you as ignorant fools.

    6. Bobbie says:

      I don't understand your point JD? Obama calls everything a crisis. the states should already have these things within budget. I don't care what their expense Cut the redundancy at ALL LEVELS!

    7. ZOLTANNE in Virginia says:

      @JD Laughable — a SanFran CA commenter leaving such a slammer, especially in light of the fact that CA is the second highest recipient of FEMA-funding. ROFL! (Source: http://www.fema.gov/news/disaster_totals_annual.f

      Heritage is not the only organization that has questioned the FEMA fiscal fiascos. Here's a well researched article to peruse:

      Overall, JD's facts are incorrect, unsourced, and intentionally misleading. FEMA's budget for 2010 added up to more than $11 Billion. When stating the annual budget of FEMA, ALL FEMA programs and assistance funding must be included for the full analysis. FEMA's separately budgeted grant funding is roughly 50% of their annual allocation. Without that grant funding, public disaster assistance could not be implemented.

      FEMA FACT: FEMA was allocated $6.3 Billion plus an additional $3.9 Billion for State and Local Programs. That's $10.1 Billion and doesn't include the $1.5 Billion more for mitigation, flood mapping, urban security and public transportation programs. Add it up and the bloated FEMA annual budget is more than $11 BILLION. (Source: http://www.planning.org/features/2009/2010federal

      The typical cause of damage of "Wind, Rain, Wind driven rain" covered by typical homeowner's insurance is masked under a variety of FEMA disaster scenarios such as Severe Storm, Thunderstorm, Hurricane. These are basic weather patterns and nothing more. The cause of damage with "Wind, Rain, Wind Driven Rain" often yields to another cause of damage known as "Sewer Back Up". This is covered by home owner's insurance with a separate rider. Anyone who owns a home should either have force-placed insurance or basic coverage and if they do not comply, the financial burden should be on the homeowner, not taxpayers. Sewer Back Up occurs almost exclusively in cities and suburban areas and is a direct result of poor local government planning. While this problem is a definitive problem of urban management, the financial provisions and long-range planning are often lacking and it becomes a National tax burden. Why is that?

      Why, in September 2000, with a hard rainfall were Detroit homeowners provided with funds to repair homes, purchase new furnishings, and purchase migitation items to prevent a sewer backup in the future? Isn't this the responsibility of basic home ownership? A total of almost $170 million went to Detroit for this one local problem! Why am I penalized in taxes because a local government official is unable to do his/her job? There are many Federally-declared disasters that are little more than a means to funnel Federal money into a region when weather strikes.

      Another incorrect FEMA "disaster" involves Mudslides which predominate the far-left CA coastline as well as in the mountains of West Virginia. Mudslides are correlational incidents that are the results from development and/or mining. The large mining corporations do not provide the financial funding for the future negative impact of coal mining. Once the topography has been destroyed and a rainfall occurs, the homeowners in those mining regions are impacted with mudslides. Why does FEMA bail out Big Mining? And I can't think of a single CA developer who had to pay for mountainside building. Why are taxpayers responsible?

      JD wrote, "Cut FEMA to save the Federal budget? It’s a little out of season for April Fool’s gags." Federal deficit reduction is not as straight-forward as your sarcastic rhetoric. There are no direct means to sufficiently align cost reductions in the Federal government. There is no one-size-fits-all due to the convoluted organizational structure, duplicity, and interdependency — it is intentionally planned this way.

      Federal deficit reduction will only occur with a number of reduction spending cuts across the Federal enterprise, not as a single line-item deduction where any one Federal agency, program, or waste will be a fix-all. Through better analysis, better economic theory (not Keynsian), and reduction/elimination of the Federal government agencies, regulations, and entitlements, our Nation will live more productively with less Federal dependency/control. We will not only be a stronger nation but we be fiscally sound. Criticisms coming from CA where the state is on the brink of bankruptcy is more of that April Fool's Day joke than the Heritage findings.

    8. Norma in Nebraska says:

      I am thinking about the response to the Gulf Oil Spill, and I have to say that if FEMA and the Federal govt had let Gov. Bobby Jindal and Lousiana handle the clean-up it probably would have gone MUCH better. The first thing the Federal govt did was to decide NOT to accept help from other countries because they didn't want to hurt the feelings of the unions!! Since when is it the role of the Federal govt to take sides in any situation, much less a crisis!

      I think the govt should be available to lend a hand when ASKED by the individual States, but otherwise they should keep their distance. When we have disasters in the central part of the Unites States (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, you get the idea) they are just a bleep on the weather and then you don't hear about them again. That is because the people who live in this part of the country do NOT want or expect the Federal govt to rescue us or clean up for us. We band together and do the heavy lifting just like we have always done, with everyone who has the ability to help pitching in to do their part to give aid and comfort their friends and neighbors.

      So what is the real purpose of FEMA??? It probably started out to be a good-intentioned program with real purpose. However, just like almost every other govt program, you will find out that is just another way for many to get some free assistance and encourages citizens to wait to be rescued by Big Brother. The program makes it easy for folks to just sit on the front porch with their arms crosses waiting for someone ELSE to clean up and make things better. Score another point for the progressives . . . . give more and more until the masses can't – or won't – function on their own!

      And for anyone who says that this program is not the problem with the Federal budget, think again. Multiply this program by thousands of such programs and it explains EXACTLY why we are borrowing $.40 of every dollar that is spent. We as individuals are going to have to become more self-sufficient, cut ALL unnecessary programs and suffer through the consequences of reducing a huge debt or we are doomed! We have two choices: revert back to core issues, core values and core government; or slide into some form of socialism, or whatever you want to call it. And all I can say is, "God help us all."

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