We’re From the Government. We’re Here to Help.
Sept 6, 2011
In the wake of hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to come hat in hands asking for more money from Congress. Like the rest of the government, it is broke. It has been suggested that any additional funds allocated to FEMA should come from cuts elsewhere. This seems harsh and lacking in compassion to big government advocates who do not understand economics, but I would go a step further. FEMA should never have been established. It is based on misguided ideas of disaster relief.
This seems shocking to those who have never been subjected to the secondary disaster that is the arrival of FEMA on the scene of a catastrophic event. But explaining FEMA’s ineptness is not the same thing as saying no one should help people affected by disasters. Quite the opposite.
Victims of disasters should get any and all help possible, and there is virtually no limit to the generosity and compassion of good American people after devastation hits. One only need to remember the outpouring after Katrina to know this is true. FEMA, however, did more to get in the way of relief than to actually provide and facilitate it. The examples are numerous. When the call was put out for volunteer firefighters, they volunteered by the thousands. It was FEMA, for reasons of control and bureaucratic ineptitude, who made sure they were not, in fact allowed to actually help. When a group of firefighters arrived from Houston, instead of being put immediately on the job, they were told to sit around and wait. After waiting for two days doing nothing, they were simply sent home. One thousand volunteer firefighters were sent to Atlanta to undergo sexual harassment training while fires actively raged in the city. The ones that remained through this stupidity were sent to escort the president around or to distribute fliers instead of putting out fires. Computer engineer Jack Harrison was told his skills were needed to rebuild technological infrastructure. After being given the runaround for about two weeks, he was misallocated as head of security on the cruise ship FEMA had leased, when he should have been using his skills to help. All manner of help was turned away or mismanaged by FEMA while people suffered and waited. Even the Red Cross had its hands tied by FEMA.