Superstorm Sandy

FEMA: Did Mitt Call for its Abolition? And Why Does Barack Want to Cut Its Funding?

Never let a good hurricane or "frankenstorm" go to waste, right?

|

Never let a good hurricane or "frankenstorm" go to waste, right?

The past few days have been awash not just in detritus from Hurricane Sandy's smashing the East Coast but in politically motivated attacks on decentralized government and fact-free championing of that great American institution, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

You've no doubt heard by now that once upon a time, Republican presidential contender called not just for the utter destruction of FEMA (best known for absolutely botching its early interventions into Hurricane Katrina and then compounding its incompetence by almost completely mishandling longer-term alleviation of pain and suffering along the Gulf Coast), but the slaughter of all its goats, chickens, and sheep.

As the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson has written,

Mitt Romney suggested that responsibility for disaster relief should be taken from the big, bad federal government and given to the states, or perhaps even privatized. Hurricane Sandy would like to know if he'd care to reconsider….

 "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction, [said Romney]. And if you can go further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

The Wall Street Journal (which is admittedly as in the tank for Romney as Robinson is in the tank for Obama) notes correctly that the response to Sandy is a triumph of local and state response to a weather-related disaster:

Citizens in the Northeast aren't turning on their TVs, if they have electricity, to hear Mr. Obama opine about subway flooding. They're tuning in to hear Governor Chris Christie talk about the damage to the Jersey shore, Mayor Mike Bloomberg tell them when bus service might resume in New York City, and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy say when the state's highways might reopen.

Energetic governors and mayors are best equipped to handle disaster relief because they know their cities and neighborhoods far better than the feds ever will, and they know their citizens will hold them accountable. The feds can help with money and perhaps expertise.

That's absolutely right and it's worth recalling that both Mike Bloomberg and Chris Christie were excoriated for incompetent responses by first responders during the blizzard that hit in December 2010. As they should have been.

Oh and what did Romney actually have to say in the debate that Robinson quotes above? Recall that last fall, the government was about to shut down over lack of funds (yet again) and $3.7 billion in FEMA funding was the conversation object that time around. Republicans said that cuts should be made elsewhere in a federal budget of almost $4 trillion to offset the cost. Democrats disagreed but eventually everything was all sorted out via more deficit spending (thank god!).

So in a Republican candidates debate, the moderator popped the question about federal spending and responsibilities using FEMA as a hook. After suggesting that pushing responsibility out of DC was a good idea, Romney continued:

"Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut—we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in."

I'm not voting for the guy, but I like the sound of what he's saying right there.

The Journal also points to two important facts that have been left out of most of the FEMA cheering by partisans. First, President Obama actually calls for cutting spending on the agency in his latest budget. Second, the agency has been steadily increasing the number of storms it declares as national disasters for the past 20 or more years. FEMA declared about 90 disasters a year under Clinton, 130 a year under Bush, and now over 150 under Obama.

Why is that a problem? As former DHS official and Heritage Foundation analyst Matt Mayer points out in a must-read column, it socializes the cost of local events to taxpayers who choose to live elsewhere. "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," writes Mayer in the Orange County Register.

Mayer is no FEMA abolitionist. Rather, as a former high-ranking official in a cabinet-level agency, he's concerned about how mission creep destroys the ability of the feds to respond when they actually should be involved due to the size and scope of a particular situation:

As FEMA is burdened by administering more…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.

Read the whole thing.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

75 responses to “FEMA: Did Mitt Call for its Abolition? And Why Does Barack Want to Cut Its Funding?

  1. No alt-text again? What happened to you Nick?

    1. I’m thinking he traded in The Jacket for something in suede.

    2. He’s showing solidarity with Lucy over her departure?

      1. But Lucy loved alt-text. He should be doing extra alt-text to honor her.

        1. There’s an emergency going on. Have some respect.

        2. Wait, what happened to Lucy?

            1. I needs my Lucy fix, nigga!
              Give me my Lucy, I’m getting the shivers, bro!

              Lucy!

              LUCY!

                1. We deified her yesterday.

                  I’m already in talks to authorize a memorial in DC.

                2. I leave for a couple of weeks, and things go crazy.

                  Can we start getting Reason’s office politics added to the AM Links email?

                  1. I never noticed you left.

  2. Just posted this on one of the newsfeed links, but I’ll post it again cuz it still pisses me off.

    Shit like this just makes me cry tears of bloody frustration. Romney gave a boilerplate, federalist, answer to a question about FEMA during one of the 3,000 GOP debates. And the media tries to make Romney out to be some type of soulless beast who roams around destroying people’s homes for laughs. Meanwhile four Americans died in a country we fought a war for who were ostensibly protected by our “friends”, the president tries to blame a private citizen for it, and the media is fucking nowhere to be found. My god we are truly and royally fucked if the media is a reflection of American knowledge/interest.

  3. “I’m not voting for the guy, but I like the sound of what he’s saying right there.”

    Then you’re part of the problem. If the media meltdown over even the thought of wrestling some control from Washington (and not even cutting anything) doesn’t prove to you that Democrats are absolutely incorrigible totalitarians then then you’re hopeless.

    1. But having power concentrated in one place makes it easier for journalists to know whose dick they need to suck.

      1. It’s like a porno where the girl’s surrounded by ten dudes.

        1. Bukkanomics.

    2. Because liking the sound of his rhetoric is TOTALLY the same as thinking he’ll follow through.

  4. Big disasters can be good politics, I remember reading this years ago about how Clinton was declaring more and more disasters because he discovered it was a good way to look Presidential and dole out cash to local pols, buying their loyalty.

  5. Energetic governors and mayors are best equipped to handle disaster relief because they know their cities and neighborhoods far better than the feds ever will…

    Except when those cities and neighborhoods are built below sea level and they hired incompetent governors and mayors who couldn’t plan for the eminently foreseeable.

    But isn’t pretty much every voter’s mind made up at this point? What kind of easy-to-understand clusterfuck would have to happen now to swing the election to the other candidate?

  6. Is that Statue of Liberty pic real?

    1. Are you serious?

    2. It’s from The Day After Tomorrow.

      1. So it’s a super reliable prediction of the very near future then?

  7. Mitt Romney suggested that responsibility for disaster relief should be taken from the big, bad federal government and given to the states, or perhaps even privatized.

    SLAVERY, plain and simple.

    1. It’s not like FEMA is particularly capable. Does no one on the left recall blaming FEMA for everything after Katrina?

      Down here, we don’t expect the feds to actually solve things after hurricanes, so we relay mostly on other means. Not that Floridians are libertarians–it’s just the utilitarian response.

      1. But…but…it was different then. Then, FEMA was run by BOOOSH, who doesn’t care about Black people.

        1. When your perception of reality is colored solely by politics, it’s no longer reality you are seeing.

        2. Emperor Hussein I, PBUH, on the other hand, is a tender, magnanimous leader, and his soulful hand shall lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency to effectiveness and thereby bring salvation to the lost and panicked peoples of the Federal States of America.

          Praise be Hussein and all of his ministers.

          1. There’s something fundamental here in this idea that compulsion is superior to cooperation. If we could overcome that tendency to look to compel rather than persuade, we might actually achieve something better.

            1. Which, as it happens, is a fantastical pipedream. Reality blows.

              1. Yeah, but what I don’t get is how compulsion has become so many people’s first refuge for, well, everything. Especially in a formerly mostly free society.

                1. It is pretty incredible, isn’t it? To talk and convince by merit is something most people don’t want to do anymore. REGULATE THIS AND THAT is the go-to method nowadays.

                  1. What’s the point in a democratic republic if, in the end, we’re just giving some people unlimited power over the rest of us?

                    1. Because we nominally choose who it is we are giving unlimited power over the rest of us.

                      -Tony (Until Mitt is elected)

                2. Yeah, but what I don’t get is how compulsion has become so many people’s first refuge for, well, everything. Especially in a formerly mostly free society.

                  How else are you going to get free shit without compulsion?

                  THE CONSTITUTION IS NOT A SUICIDE PACT!

          2. Emperor Hussein I, PBUH

            The proper term is ?????? (Caliph), infidel.

            I have written a fatwa calling for your death, in the name of Obama the most munificent.

            1. And on the seventh day, God gazed upon the Earth, and upon his multiple tribes of children, and he saw that it was fucking awful, and thus he abandoned Terra in pursuit of more fruitful creations.

              1. The truth has been revealed!

      2. PL, I agree that Florida has its shit together on storm preparedness and cleanup – mostly by devolving it to the county level – but there’s still a shitload of FEMA money flooding into the state after every storm. Shit i know people for who the ’04 storms were like winning the lottery, between insurance payouts and FEMA grants. Not to mention the amount of FEMA money that went to counties that hadn’t even felt the storms.

        But a lot of that goes back to the clusterfuck that was Dade County during and after Hurricane Andrew.

        Everyone propbably remembers the ditz jumping on the chair and screaming “where’s the cavalry?” What most people don’t remember is that Dade County quietly fired her about a year later after the media attention was gone. They then hired someone who understood that when your job is to be in charge of emergency management, you are the cavalry.

        Every other county got the message too.

        The trouble was that in ’92 Florida had grown so fast that it was full of people that had no idea what a hurricane was like since there had been so few in the previous thirty years or so*. Andrew showed everyone what it was really like and people got the message.

        *this is one of the reasons why the erroneous belief that there are more and worse hurricanes now than there were historically is so prevalent.

        1. Of course, you already know most of that, but there are a ton of people that don’t.

          That’s why thre’s all the hype about “superstorm” Sandy, I think.

          1. I do, but you’re right to call out that we, too, get federal largess.

            My point was really about the idea of FEMA as a kind of first responder, which is a joke.

            1. Indeed, but part of my point is that it’s still been a haed learned lesson.

              Thirteen years after Huricane Andrew schooled Florida about who needs to do disaster preparedness Katrina had people on chairs in New Orleans screaming “where’s the FEMA cavalry?” like the ditz in Dade County.

              Apparently news takes a long time to get across three state lines.

  8. Posted this in the other thread;

    Ill give FEMA the benefit of the doubt. Most people do not understand FEMA’s “mission”, and media hype and pressure usually shapes FEMA’s response. I have an uncle that works part time with FEMA as a lead inspector. Hes always says he denies the vast majority of “claims” because people and businesses expect FEMA to subsidize their loses. Even he wants FEMA to be dismantled….although he probably isn’t the typical FEMA worker, he actually spent his career in the private sector. FEMA, just like every Federal agency, has expanded way beyond its original mission into just another never-ending handout to idiots and losers.

    Katrina was largely a mess because of the state response, per say.

    We’ll see if Romney has the cajones to stand up to the leftards about cutting FEMA.

    1. It should be the cojones.

      Cajones means drawers, or Charles Ambrose Jones – take your pick.

      1. Care to explain ?ngles/ingl?s?

  9. If we could overcome that tendency to look to compel rather than persuade, we might actually achieve something better.

    THIS IS WHY NOBODY TAKES LIBERTARIANS SERIOUSLY

    1. Won’t you think of the children who we can force to do stuff, too?

      1. Like attend public school. Isn’t involuntary servitude prohibited by the Constitution, or something stupid like that?

        1. Only except for punishment for a crime.

          Clearly, childhood is criminal.

          1. My studies establish, without a shadow of a doubt, that children are, by adult standards, insane.

  10. The other day, somebody made some disparaging comment about libertarians, and I said, “Libertarians are all about voluntary co-operation.”

    The reply had something or other to do with ROADZ.

    No kidding.

    1. In some ways, even the compelled stuff–like roads–are really the result of cooperation. We all want roads to drive on, and, for the moment, that’s mostly handled by one government or another.

      Maybe we should just skip the unnecessary compulsion and cooperate to achieve our ends. Like in some sort of market that is free.

  11. I’m going to start bullying people into not doing stuff.

    DISOBEY

    1. STOP RESISTING.

      1. ACQUIESCE

        RELENT

        BOW

        HEEL

        WOA

        HERE, BOY!

  12. 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.

    Racist.

    1. You forgot sexist.

  13. “So in a Republican candidates debate, the moderator popped the question about federal spending and responsibilities using FEMA as a hook. After suggesting that pushing responsibility out of DC was a good idea, Romney continued:

    “Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut?we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

    I’m not voting for the guy, but I like the sound of what he’s saying right there.”

    The guy is asked to name what programs he’d eliminate, and he doesn’t identify a single one. Instead of answering the question, he rephrases and repeats it, as though that’s an answer. Nick, you’re easily impressed.

    1. I don’t see how liking the words is the same as believing he means anything by voicing them. It’s nice rhetoric, but I don’t think Nick really believes Romney would follow through.

      1. If you’re Vanneman, you can make anything the same as anything else as long as it fits the DNC talking point of the day.

  14. As a follow-up, here’s my prediction for a Romney Administration:

    If Romney is elected, the odds are overwhelming that he will increase the size of the deficit, because he will 1) cut taxes without significantly reducing tax deductions, 2) increase already grotesquely high military spending. He will cut “welfare” spending as much as he can, and as much as the Democrats will let him, but after a certain point the state governments will protest, because a lot of “welfare,” particularly Medicaid,actually goes to the middle class. Oh, and he will surely “get tough” with Iran, which will surely result in some sort of military action, which will not be conclusive, ensuring further military action somewhere down the road. So if you were thinking of some “peace dividend” following our semi-exits from Iraq and Afghanistan, forget it.

    1. Re: Alan Vanneman,

      Here’s my prediction of a new Obama administration:

      If Obama is re-elected, the odds are overwhelming that he will increase the size of the deficit, because he will 1) keep the same tax rates without reducing tax deductions, 2) increase already grotesquely high military spending. He will cut “welfare” spending as much as he can, and as much as the Democrats will let him, but after a certain point the state governments will protest, because a lot of “welfare,” particularly Medicaid, actually goes to the middle class. Oh, and he will surely “get tough” with Iran, which will surely result in some sort of military action, which will not be conclusive, ensuring further military action somewhere down the road. So if you were thinking of some “peace dividend” following our semi-exits from Iraq and Afghanistan, forget it.

    2. Paultard?

      1. Alan is a leftist troll. Though I could see all of that happening under Romney, except he won’t cut welfare spending. And most of that would happen under a second Obama term too

  15. Energetic governors and mayors are best equipped to handle disaster relief

    That’s absolutely right less wrong

    The governors and mayors aren’t the best equipped, the people best equipped are the property and business-owners in the critical areas, who can better respond due to their close relationship with the citizens and consumers in the area. Don’t forget the lessons in private response you taught us yesterday, Nick.

    1. Ok, last paragraph shouldn’t be in block quotes.

      1. You’ve sinned, Darius. What have you to say for your heinous e-crime?

        1. If I were allowed to post pictures, they would always have alt-text.

          1. I like you. You’re alright.

          2. You dodged a bullet there. No need for the hemlock, you can put it away.

  16. Second, the agency has been steadily increasing the number of storms it declares as national disasters for the past 20 or more years. FEMA declared about 90 disasters a year under Clinton, 130 a year under Bush, and now over 150 under Obama.

    But that is only because the Obama years have seen one disaster after another, so it should not come as a surprise.

    Why is that a problem? As former DHS official and Heritage Foundation analyst Matt Mayer points out […] it socializes the cost of local events to taxpayers who choose to live elsewhere.

    No surprise there, again. That’s pretty much the case with most of the social programs paid for by the taxpayers: They benefit a few at the expense of the many. Think of flood insurance, farm subsidies, welfare, etc.

    1. “But that is only because the Obama years have been one disaster after another, so it should not come as a surprise.”

      FIFY

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.