The 7-Step Guide to Our Idiotic Disaster-Relief Politics

"We've got your back." ||| Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govBy now you should recognize the formula:

1) Natural disaster (tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, fire, snowstorm, heavy rainstorm, volcano) kills multiple people.

2) President (Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I) vows to survivors that the federal government will "be with you every step of the way" in the rebuilding process.

3) One or two fiscal conservatives (Sen. Tom Coburn [R-Oklahoma], Rep. Eric Cantor [R-Virginia], Sen. Rand Paul [R-Kentucky]) will suggest that a federal blank check isn't the best way to respond to local disasters; point out that annual federal emergency-declarations have grown exponentially from 28 during the Reagan presidency to 44 under Bush I to 90 under Clinton to 130 under Bush II and 153 under Obama; complain that disaster bills get laden with unseemly pork; observe that disaster relief inevitably transfers money from low-risk states (like Michigan) to high-risk states (like Florida), and as a result of all this propose spending cuts to offset the cost of the federal bailout.

"Whatever it takes." |||4) They will be treated as hideous idelogues by both the press and office-holding Republicans in the affected area.

5) The blank check will arive.

6) After a respectful interval, rebuilding locals will complain that the federal money comes with bureaucratic strings and a general outsidery cluelessness.

7) Natural disaster kills multiple people....

A critical element in this dreary and sometimes deadly farce is the attempt by free-spending pragmatists to assert that the only "ideology" on display here is that of people who dispute the virtue of the blank check. Here's the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, for example:

"All of us are in this for the long haul." ||| Government Printing OfficeGovernment Printing OfficeAlthough we resolved the slavery debate, our nation seems in many ways to be regressing back to the politics of that era. Disaster relief is not a slam dunk anymore because an issue of basic decency has become entangled with a renewed assault on federal power and a belief that cutting the budget is the nation's single highest priority.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) is so philosophically consistent that his office let it be known that he believed even assistance to those suffering in his home state should be offset by budget cuts. He later said he would not get in the way of relief, but it's astonishing that emergency spending on behalf of innocent people would be used as a vehicle for more austerity. [...]

May the people of Oklahoma get the help they need. Rigid ideology is no substitute for generosity of spirit.

Related reading from me: "The Simpletons: David Brooks, Thomas L. Friedman, and the banal authoritarianism of do-something punditry," and "No Labels, and the Ideology of Non-Ideology." And to quickly fact-check E.J. Dionne's claim that "disaster relief is not a slam dunk anymore," check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency's last 60 disaster declarations.

Reason has a robust archive on disaster-response public policy; click here to get started.

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  • Auric Demonocles||

    Natural disaster ... kills multiple people.

    And then the lockdown happens, right?

  • Hugh Akston||

    No, then the US military invades Tornadostan.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    But only if it was an earthquake.

  • rts||

    Rigid ideology is no substitute for generosity of spirit.

    Is it really generosity when it's other people's (stolen) money you're giving away?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Yes. Shut up. You're ruining it.

  • sarcasmic||

    When you don't give money to people, you're actually taking money from them. You see, they need it really badly, and they're expecting it, so not giving it to them is the same as taking it from them.
    As far as the rich go, they've got plenty of money. So when you don't take from them, you might as well be giving money to them. Besides, they're rich. They haven't paid their fair share. How could they? They're rich.
    So not giving is taking, and not taking is giving.

  • rts||

    Careful, sarcasmic, you really do sound like typical progressive doublethink.

    Gaze, abyss, yaddah yaddah you know the rest.

  • sarcasmic||

    Progressives emote. There's no thinking or doublethinking involved.

  • Hyperion||

    They sort of think, it's just a very primitive and simple way of thinking.

    They hear the rhetoric of their masters. The higher lemmings among them, then turn that rhetoric into simple talking points. The lemming minions then turn those talking points into emoting. Then they try to groupthink those emotions onto the rest of society.

    90% of Americans want!!!...

    They really are a blank slate for no questions asked stupidity.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think of progressives as generally falling into one of two camps. There are the manipulators who know that what they are saying is total bullshit, and there are the manipulated who are too stupid to understand that they're being fed lies or are too caught up in the emotion to care.

    Take for example "The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."

    Poor people have more electronic gadgets than rich people did when I was a kid, and poor people regularly die of obesity related illnesses, yet they are getting poorer?

    The only way to argue against that is sheer idiocy or blind emotion. Or both.

  • CE||

    The poor will always be with us. The fact that the rich are getting richer is a sign of progress.

    (Polishes monocle.)

  • Rich||

    Take for example "The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."

    This simply means that "Compared to the poor, the rich are getting richer; and, compared to the rich, the poor are getting poorer."

    See? No problemo!

  • Hyperion||

    Perhaps one glorious day, we will sit an ponder on this, after the proglodytes have been relegated to the dust bin of history, much like the luddites, who they surely sprang from.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Exactly. It is distinctly different from money donated to the Red Cross, for example. But progtards are colorblind to the difference. They do not have the ability to see it.

  • thom||

    According to most lefties, the unwillingness to redistribute other people's money makes one "selfish".

    I've had people tell me with a straight face that certain other people who minimize their taxes and advocate for smaller government while at the same time donating generously to charity with money or time are "selfish".

  • Jerryskids||

    'Generosity of spirit' is obviously not the same thing as 'generosity' - hence the modifier. I think 'generosity of spirit' has to do with intentions, 'generosity' is merely actions.

  • Invisible Finger||

    "Generosity of spirit" means praying for them.

    And progtards fall into one of two camps on that as well - the enlightened (aka rich) white progtards look askance at religious beliefs but for the exception of poor people of color in which case their religious beliefs are part of the multi-culti landscape and can't be questioned. It's OK for progtards to help the somewhat poor hick victims of Oklahoma so long as those being helped know that it isn't a religious cause/charity/spirit that is helping them.

  • CE||

    What money? The federal government is in deeper debt than any organization in the history of mankind has ever been. They just have the (seemingly) unlimited power to borrow more, because they can always print more and tax more later.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    May the people of Oklahoma get the help they need. Rigid ideology is no substitute for generosity of spirit.

    Amount of his own money that E.J. Dionne sent to help the people of Oklahoma: $0*

    *Just a guess, but I bet I'm right.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm sure he paid some level of federal tax. So it's probably a cent or two.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Beyond the immediate crisis, it's not like most areas in the U.S. aren't affluent enough to rebuild. I mean, we're First World and everything, right?

    That's why Japan didn't get the cash donations that Indonesia did.

  • Dweebston||

    Rigid ideology Federal largesse is no substitute for generosity of spirit.
  • Marshall Gill||

    May the people of Oklahoma get the help they need. Rigid ideology is no substitute for generosity of spirit.

    I realize that disputing any of EJ's claims is like nuking fish in a barrel but it is amazing how he can contradict himself in his own articles.

    My wife and son spent Memorial Day volunteering in Moore, a "generosity of spirit" if you will. Voting to steal from one group to pay bureaucrats to distribute the stolen wealth is much more along the lines of "rigid ideology". What a fucking turd.

  • Radioactive||

    no, I think he's just a regular turd...full of shit

  • John||

    Colburn is from Oklahoma, the state that was effected by the tornado. I think he deserves a lot of credit for stepping up when the relief affected his voters.

  • robc||

    Agreed.

    It would be even better if they found the offsetting budget cuts and he passed them and voted against the aid at the same time.

  • ||

    Connecticut democrats deserved a taller soap box during the gun control debate and by god, they were ACTING, they were DEWING SOMETHIMGUH!!!one1!!

    Coburn is just a mendacious idealogical prick though!

  • Tman||

    My favorite story out of the Oklahoma relief efforts was the fundraising for Rebecca Vitsmun, who while being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer admitted she was an atheist, though she doesn’t fault any survivors that thanked God.

    Doug Stanhope, the comedian started a fundraising page for her and......

    QUICK!! TO THE ATHEIST MOBILE!!!

    Boom. $100K for Ms. Vitsum.

    http://thecomicscomic.com/2013.....a-tornado/

  • John||

    That was damn white of her to allow her neighbors to think what they want. That is a funny story but only because it shows what a low bar there is for decent behavior. What was she supposed to say? I hope all of those ignorant fuckers die of grief?

  • Tman||

    Watch the video John, Blitzer asks-

    "You gotta thank the Lord right? Do you thank the lord?"

    The bit about the neighbors was her return to Blitzers ridiculous line of questioning.

  • Zeb||

    What an obnoxious thing to ask. Did he ask the people who lost family members if they are cursing God right now?

  • Virginian||

    I really think it's patronizing big city assholery.

    "I work God in right? These idiot hicks talk about God a lot don't they?"

    "Sounds good Wolf. We're on in ten"

  • Tonio||

    What was she supposed to say to that question, John?

  • ||

    Being an atheist in Oklahoma is a hell I can't imagine. Especially since I'm an atheist and I don't believe in hell!

  • John||

    It really isn't. I lived in Oklahoma for 11 years and know plenty of atheists. They all seemed happy. I would rather be an atheist in Oklahoma than a Christian in a college faculty.

    Seriously, Kristen, why would you think such a thing? Have you ever been there? Do you have any idea what it is actually like?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I was in the Territories back in aught-five, and I damned near got stabbed by a drunk Injun. 'Tweren't his fault, though, 'cause I was the one who liquored him up.

  • ||

    He never surrendered. You took his horse, though, and made him surrender. I hear they got him pullin' wagons up in Kansas somewhere.

  • Pro Libertate||

    "Yes, there were three. . .or four, it was hard to tell. It was very dark in your teepee and they were under buffalo rugs as you crawled among them. Anyway, it was a great copulation."

  • Jerryskids||

    I always heard there were three kinds of suns in Kansas, sunshine, sunflowers, and sons-of-bitches.

  • Smells Like Tom Skerritt||

    Hell has come to breakfast.

  • Brandon||

    Speaking of Oklahoma, has anyone seen Tony since last week?

  • ||

    I'm in Oklahoma. There are a lot of dead squirrels on the roads lately, so maybe?

  • ||

    Of course I've spent time there - and was absolutely inundated with god and Jesus and all that. But my comment was meant as humorous - illustrating the juxtaposition of hell and not actually believing in hell. Lighten the fuck up, Sally.

  • John||

    It is funny. I lived in these places for decades and was never inundated with any such thing. I never went to church there. Never had anyone ever try to get me to go to church. Other than driving by a church I never was exposed to God or Jesus beyond my own thoughts. My first legal secretary was a huge Christian. But I knew that because of the bible she kept on her desk and the bumper stickers on her car not because of any conversation I ever had with her.

    I honestly don't get how people have such experiences as yours. I don't doubt that you had them. But I have no idea how or why mine was so different. I must put out a different vibe to people or something.

  • ||

    Nobody ever talks to me about Jesus either. I must not look worth saving, I guess.

  • ||

    I think it's more the smell than your looks.

  • Smells Like Tom Skerritt||

    NEEDS MOAR FRANKINCENSE.

  • John||

    I must not be worth it either. I had more people try to convert me to being an Oklahoma football fan than I ever had try to convert me to Jesus.

  • The Original Jason||

    When I lived in Georgia, I got visited by missionaries once a year. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I get a visit about once a week.

  • Tonio||

    It really isn't.

    No, you don't actually know, unless you were an atheist during that period.

    I would rather be an atheist in Oklahoma than a Christian in a college faculty.

    I would imagine that Christian faculty members at Liberty, Regents, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Union Theological Seminary, etc have it particularly rough.

    Thanks for the lulz, John. You never fail to disappoint.

  • Smells Like Tom Skerritt||

    I would imagine that Christian faculty members at Liberty, Regents, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Union Theological Seminary, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Smith, UC Berkeley, etc have it particularly rough.

  • John||

    No, you don't actually know, unless you were an atheist during that period.

    I lived there for 11 years and am friends with multiple atheists some of whom still live there. Yeah, I think I actually know dipshit.

    I would imagine that Christian faculty members at Liberty, Regents, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Union Theological Seminary, etc have it particularly rough.

    My wife works at Georgetown. And actually it is a quite irreligious place among the faculty. But don't let the facts get in the way when you are being stupid and missing the point.

    You have become like MNG's retarded brother on here. MNG was mendacious and stupid but he did at least try. You don't even do that.

  • sarcasmic||

    This atheist thinks of heaven and hell as how you live in memory after you die.

  • John||

    But you won't be around to know it. So who cares? Heaven and or hell is how much you enjoy your life and how much meaning you derived from it. How the rest of them remember you is their problem. I guess if their memory is how you get your meaning, then that makes sense. Not for me, but it is as good as anything else.

  • sarcasmic||

    But you won't be around to know it. So who cares?

    When did I say that I cared?

  • John||

    If you don't care, then how is it heaven or hell for you?

  • sarcasmic||

    I didn't say it was for me.

    I simply said that I think of heaven and hell (as in "He went to heaven" or "He went to hell" or "You're going to hell for that") as how you live in memory after you die.

  • John||

    Okay. I just misunderstood you.

  • sarcasmic||

    I guess if their memory is how you get your meaning, then that makes sense.

    You've been taking your Tulpa pills again, I see.

  • Jordan||

    I lived in Oklahoma for 18 years as an atheist with absolutely no problems. If you're not a douchey, evangelical atheist, you'll be fine.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Obviously, as has been pointed out here and other places, it's not true generosity if you're not giving of yourself. But that's not how the left thinks. The state is them and they are the state. Those FEMA checks, while not technically being drawn from their own bank accounts, still make them feel good. That's how collectivism works.

  • JWS||

    Not only that, but, like Dionne, they're unfalteringly convinced that each of the many government hands that touch those monies are doing so with a purely altruistic devotion to making things good and better.

    The suspension of disbelief is astounding.

  • sarcasmic||

    Government isn't tainted with greedy profit motive, therefore everything it does is wonderful.

  • Zeb||

    "emergency-declarations have grown exponentially from 28 during the Reagan presidency to 44 under Bush I to 90 under Clinton to 130 under Bush II and 153 under Obama"

    Looks pretty linear to me. But it has grown by a lot. I notice a trend of governors declaring emergencies for not too unusual snow storms and other events that should be part of the state budget already.

  • Brandon||

    Should be, but those evil libertarians have forced austerity on the poor misunderstood governors, so they can't even afford to take care of their people!

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Don't forget climate change.

  • JW||

    It'S CHANGING RIGHT NOW! RUN! GET TO THE CHOPPER!

  • Matt Welch||

    I have judged this criticism worthy of a strike-through. Thanks.

  • Zeb||

    Cool. Not quite a hat tip, but I think this is the first time I've made anything happen outside of the comments on Reason.com.

  • Tonio||

    Congrats, Zeb. BTW, that means you buy the first round of beer tonight.

  • Jerryskids||

    I haven't checked the state of the disaster fund here lately, but the one-dollar tax on every insurance policy sold starts piling up when there are no longer any state-level disasters that don't almost automatically get certified as federal disasters.

  • Zeb||

    Didn't even really know about those funds. Things that can be planned for should be planned for. A state in the North East should have plans that include the fact that a significant tropical storm is going to hit once every 10 years or so and the same for a 3 foot snowfall. And Oklahoma should be able to plan for the fact that big fucking tornadoes are going to hit populated areas from time to time.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Unfeeling bastard. You must hate the children,

  • Zeb||

    Have you ever met any children? They are dicks. No consideration for other people. I say fuck 'em.

  • Smells Like Tom Skerritt||

    ^^This is what NAMBLA members actually believe^^

  • Zeb||

    I'll just have to take your word on that.

  • CE||

    Anthropomorphic Global Climate Change Warming, duh.

  • Brandon||

    What Dionne is doing here is the same thing as saying "How dare those evil Republicans politicize this disaster?!"

  • ||

    All you can do with Fists of Fury is pat him on the head and say "Shhhhh. Don't you worry your purty lil head".

  • Doctor Whom||

    Although we resolved the slavery debate, our nation seems in many ways to be regressing back to the politics of that era.

    We need a corollary to Godwin's Law for gratuitous references to slavery.

  • Jerryskids||

    It's not a gratuitous reference to slavery - it's a completely apropos acknowledgement of the fact that the only reason anybody opposes Obama is racism.

    The fact that you can't see this (or pretend that you can't see this) proves how racist you are.

  • Tonio||

    ^This

  • CE||

    Just last week the New York Times ran an editorial calling for slavery for young people, via a military draft.

  • Hyperion||

    And those 'liberal' proglodytes cheered with glee.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Honestly, if they replaced civil service with draftees, it would probably be better for us as a country.

  • Tonio||

    We need a corollary to Godwin's Law for gratuitous references to slavery.

    You just invented it, so you have naming rights. Bravo, Sir.

  • Smells Like Tom Skerritt||

    Jim Crowed?

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Damn it, should have read the rest of the comments first. But they usually suck. I blame all of you.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    [A]nnual federal emergency-declarations have grown exponentially from 28 during the Reagan presidency to 44 under Bush I to 90 under Clinton to 130 under Bush II and 153 under Obama

    Sounds like more evidence of global climate change

  • CE||

    You left out the part where the determined locals vow to rebuild, no matter how many times the earthquake/hurricane/tornado/flood strikes their earthquake/hurricane/tornado/flood zone.

  • Drake||

    For some reason the natives and early colonists never decided to settle in that particular location...

  • Tonio||

    Early colonists didn't get that far inland. That was during the period of westward expansion, which

    Early Colonial (1608- ~1700), Later Colonial (~1700-1776), Revolution and Early National Period (1776-1815),
    then Westward Expansion

  • Drake||

    My point - There was a time when people knew not to build next to a pestilence-ridden swamp, in a flood zone, on the side of a mountain that has mudslides, etc...

  • Andrew S.||

    And this is why I laugh every time I see stuff coming out of my home state (Florida) about how doomed the state-run insurance company (that's another story) will be if there's a "1 in 100 year" storm. Even if that happens, the feds are going to bail the state out, so why worry?

  • Zeb||

    Is there anything in Florida that is insurable without subsidy or bailouts?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Mickey Mouse?

  • Brett L||

    My house is pretty much safe from wind and flood. Except for the giant oak tree older than Florida's statehood in my back yard that will surely kill me if I'm in the house when it falls.

  • Andrew S.||

    I think I'd be in trouble with a quick moving category 5 making a direct hit east of here moving westbound, but otherwise I'm fairly okay. Live as far inland as I can, have accordion shutters on my windows and a windproof front door, and there was very little damage in my neighborhood from Hurricane Wilma (couple of houses lost a few roof tiles, and some fences were blown down, but that was it).

  • WTF||

    Minor nit to pick:

    "4) They will be treated as hideous idelogues by both the press and office-holding Republicans in the affected area."

    After hurricane Sandy, it was the democrats in NY and NJ that were doing this, so why the slap at just the republicans, as though the democrats don't do the same?

  • B.P.||

    I think it was assumed that members of the opposition party would be engaging in the treatment, since fiscal conservatives are kinda scarce in that party.

  • minarchist||

    Matt,
    You left out step 9, the inevitable linkage of said disaster to 'climate change' requiring the multi-national effort and expenditure of billions of dollars to rid our planet of this unfortunate poison which causes the Earth's thermostat to go bonkers and which is also bad for children.

  • Zeb||

    Nah. Then it only applies to weather disasters.

  • Drake||

    And, every step of the way and in between natural disasters, re-enforce the idea that big government is your key to survival. Not insurance, preparation, common sense, or any other private action can compare.

  • The Original Jason||

    If it weren't for those damned preppers, we couldn't have natural disasters!

  • Paul.||

    I don't see why this is so damned complicated. Why doesn't our do-nothing congress just ban natural disasters?

  • Doctor Whom||

    Because evil corporations lobby Congress not to do so.

  • Paul.||

    Broken window theory... I like your thinking.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Although we resolved the slavery debate

    Dionne's Law: every argument by a progressive will eventually mention slavery and states' rights.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Davey Crocket got this right over 150 years ago.
    A great speach

  • Invisible Finger||

    Although we resolved the slavery debate

    It isn't resolved if I have to be mulcted for whatever "goodwill" reasons EJ Dioone thinks up.

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