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  • New York Times: "A Big Storm Requires Big Government"

    The East River crests the promenade between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

    In a shameless attempt to politicize Hurricane Sandy, The New York Times rushed out an editorial, “A Big Storm Requires Big Government,” attacking conservatives for advocating a rebalancing of disaster response responsibilities.

    The Times says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.” That statement is, pardon my French, horse manure.

    The Times isn’t the only entity on the left politicizing Hurricane Sandy. Late last night, a friend on the left emailed me asking: “Not sure if you’re watching the news right now but, totally off the record, wondering if you still think the federal government shouldn’t be involved in disaster relief?”

    My response (totally on the record) was: “I’ve NEVER said that. What I’ve said consistently is that FEMA/federal government should be reserved for truly catastrophic events like Sandy, Katrina, Northridge, 9/11, etc. FEMA/federal government should not be involved in routine disasters that states/locals have dealt with throughout most of American history. Otherwise, states like Ohio and its taxpayers subsidize tornadoes in Oklahoma or fires in Colorado or floods in Iowa. Ohio is the 7th largest state, so it funds FEMA more than smaller states, yet Ohio typically gets one, maybe two FEMA declarations per year, making Ohio a net loser when FEMA nationalizes smaller-scale events.”

    No conservative I know wants to eliminate FEMA or the federal role in disaster response and recovery. The fact is, conservatives have been consistently advocating for the decentralization of those functions for routine natural disasters to states and localities to ensure that FEMA is prepared to deal with truly catastrophic events that hit America—like Hurricane Sandy. See here, here, and here.

    The reality is that since 1993, FEMA has nationalized more and more disasters that were historically handled and paid for entirely by states and localities (See CHART here). Disasters such as tornadoes, fires, floods, snowstorms, severe storms, and other small-scale events have little to no regional or national impact and, therefore, no justification for federal involvement.

    As we’ve noted, by nationalizing routine disasters, FEMA’s resources—especially staff time and funding—are stretched thin on events that clearly fall outside of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act’s mandate that FEMA get involved when the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that it overwhelms state and local resources. Very few natural disasters that have received FEMA declarations since 1993 truly meet that definition.

    As FEMA is burdened by administering more than 100 new declarations per year, it doesn’t have time or money to focus on being prepared for catastrophic events, which is why seven years after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA still lacks key capabilities, according to the Government Accountability Office. At the same time, while FEMA nationalizes routine natural disasters and shifts the costs of those events from the states in which those events occur to the other 49 states, states have defunded emergency management. This approach to natural disasters makes no sense.

    The federal government cannot do everything or be everywhere. By properly delineating roles and responsibilities, we can make sure that FEMA is prepared for the big events like Hurricane Sandy and gets states back in charge of dealing with and paying for the routine natural disasters that occur in their jurisdictions year after year. Big storms do require big government, but little storms don’t. Knowing the difference is the key to getting out of the fiscal mess we are presently in.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to New York Times: "A Big Storm Requires Big Government"

    1. Pam Hall says:

      Well said, Matt Mayer

    2. Paul says:

      A big storm requires the big Walmart not big government.

    3. richard mcenroe says:

      Just as a note, WalMart was getting relief supplies into New Orleans before FEMA. Maybe outsourcing IS a good idea.

    4. Shearwater says:

      In the primary debates I watched Romney clearly state that he would eliminate FEMA. Your editorial suggests that FEMA should maintained but be reserved for the largest disasters. This is, perhaps, a reasonable position but it is at odds with Romney's statement at the time.

      Now, with both the election and a major hurricane approaching, Romney suddenly comes out in favor of retaining FEMA. Really!

      • Jose says:

        He's indicated that FEMA needed to be eliminated "as it was"… He's said all along that FEMA needed to backstop local response, not replace it. It doesn't mean he didn't gladly accept FEMA dollars as governor, but refusing "free" money during a disaster is hardly politically tenable.

    5. Yankee Linda says:

      I say "horse manure" to your opinion, Matt. The reason why more and more "state level disasters" require federal assistance is because the severity of these disasters are going up, year after year, thanks to the non-existence of global warming and climate chaos. What used to be routine is not routine any more and that is the new normal we have to learn to deal with.

      As for WalMart getting relief supplies into New Orleans before FEMA. I'd like to know if those supplies were given freely, and if those supplies were made in America. If not, I see no difference to just damn right out-source our disaster relief to China, and let WalMart continue to play the middleman profiteering off the misery of Americans.

      • Bobbie says:

        The reason why more and more "state level disasters" require federal assistance is because the federal department is deeming "disasters" "routine federal cases." Taking the governor's job away! Routine shouldn't really be routine as natural disasters and global chaos aren't predictable by all measures. If the state governor can't handle his job for whatever reason, why should it take FEMA to then move in for those "routine disasters" where the states made the best decisions until Katrina? Don't assume all states the lack of credibility because of ignorant decisions Katrina's state government made. Keep FEMA at bay, not the forefront. At a governor's salary his responsibilities to his state has no right to decrease unless he's taking public servant pay which is zero. People have to make the best decisions they can throughout their lives and especially with matters outside their control and if available according to proper trustworthy advisory. Waiting for FEMA is unreasonable and irrational in most cases they've involved themselves with pay.

        This is in every regard to impracticalities and over reaction FEMA instigates to take control. If FEMA lived up to their implication, Sandy wouldn't have killed any lives.

        I think the point is WalMart distributed necessities before FEMA!

        The problem with you anti freedom types is you'll take words from those protecting freedom, without comprehending rationality and common sense. Yet when the left talks you'll take their word for it no matter what non sense and how irrational it is and when it doesn't work as wiser minds knew before wasting time and money, it's someone elses fault. If you're state doesn't have a governor that can handle unforeseen matters professionally, you need a better person governing.

        Open your mind! This administration and FEMA are more suspicious then worthy of their government authority.

        • Patti Patriot says:

          Thank u….well said. We also have to remember that "we the common people" ALWAYS open our hearts, volunteering and pouring $$$ into the area that needs aid. What has to be stopped is the looting and willful destruction by those looters.

        • Karen says:

          BRAVO!!! Exactly how I feel!

    6. DemFem says:

      A 'routine' disaster? Is that like almost being pregnant?

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