FEMA is a waste of taxpayer dollars. At least, that’s what Ron Paul said in an interview on CNN: ” I think it’s bad economics. I think it’s bad morality. And it’s bad constitutional law.”
Ron Paul is a Libertarian, which, in his view, means that people should be allowed to do what they want to do, that is except when it comes to abortion or legal recognition of gay marriage, and he said that the 1964 Civil Rights Act actually “violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty.” One wonders what, in Paul’s mind, would have worked better towards easing racial discrimination throughout America. He would eliminate many federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, calling them “unnecessary bureaucracies.”
That said, Ron Paul does make sense on other issues, such as legalization of marijuana and prostitution, support for stem-cell research, and protection of habeus corpus. He also supports cuts in defense spending, but only in the form of removing bases in Western Europe and Japan, which is probably why China would be eager to see a Paul presidency. In fact, Ron Paul has repeatedly supported China when it comes any legislation concerning human rights abuses, Tibet, or trade with China.
But let’s address Paul’s desire to rid America of FEMA. In the interview I watched with Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos, this was the exchange that got my attention:
[George Stephanopoulos] “Do you think everyone should just be responsible for themselves and if a flood washes your house away no FEMA?” the viewer asked via email, “Sink or swim?”
[Ron Paul] “I think that’s the way a free society works and that’s what the Constitution mandates.”
In the same interview, Paul went on to say, “Insurance is an old fashioned way of doing it. Buy insurance. If the insurance [company] won’t sell it to you, it means it’s too dangerous. If it’s too dangerous, why dump the responsibility on the taxpayer? You know it doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make good moral sense, it doesn’t make Constitutional sense.”
This is when I became disgusted with Ron Paul. Why? Because he’s taking a completely dogmatic approach to a problem that faces many Americans every single year. Here’s what he said about the Mississippi River flood:
You brought up the subject, you know, of the Mississippi. FEMA is more or less in charge. But their decision now, because of government levees, because of the flood and no natural result and taking care of this flood, they have a decision to make. OK, down the Mississippi and flood this city, or down here and flood some innocent farmers.
Ah, so it’s the government’s fault for building levees. I remember my grandmother telling me about the Great Flood of 1927, how lucky they were that their house was on a small rise of about a few feet, and how everything else around them was flooded. Apparently, if Ron Paul had had his way, most of the Mississippi delta would have been flooded once more (with all the economic damage that entails), instead of the much smaller part that faced it this time. He bemoans the plight of the innocent farmers (whose source of livelihood, their land, would not be destroyed), and he apparently thinks it would have been preferable if New Orleans, whose far more numerous residents would certainly have had their livelihoods badly damaged or destroyed, had suffered another major flood.
It has become apparent that Ron Paul is not truly thinking through the practical applications of his political dogma. Why? Let’s look at one particular sentence: “If the insurance [company] won’t sell it to you, it means it’s too dangerous.” So if the insurance company won’t sell insurance to you, you should move! The problem with this is the fact that without government help and regulation, many of America’s flood-prone areas, essentially, any place that’s flat and near a river, would have zero flood insurance. Here’s why the government stepped in: In 1968 the U.S. Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to address the nation’s flood exposure and challenges inherent in financing and managing flood risks in the private sector. Private insurance companies at the time claimed that the flood peril was uninsurable and, therefore, could not be underwritten in the private insurance market.
What does Ron Paul think about the National Flood Insurance Program? “But I have opposed, you know, flood insurance since I’ve been in Congress for 30 years, since 1976.”
So he thinks it would be better to keep the government out of the matter, despite the fact that much of the land on either side of the Mississippi would likely become suddenly uninsurable. If no one could live near the river, then how would it be managed? How would we be able to bring the majority of the nation’s grain exports to the river, that it may be shipped overseas? How would the absolutely crucial locks be operated if no one can live nearby to operate them? That, and an interruption of the river’s traffic would “cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars for every day of idled barges carrying coal, timber, iron, steel and more than half of America’s grain exports.”
Obviously, Ron Paul didn’t think things through. He didn’t consider the permutations of his dogma were it to be implemented. And it doesn’t stop there, in 2007, Scientific American reported, “In South Carolina private companies have stopped insuring homes valued at less than $500,000. In Rhode Island some agencies have refused to cover any coastal properties. Allstate, one of the largest residential property insurers on the east coast, elected not to renew 30,000 policies covering coastal properties in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County and Connecticut, and is considering reducing coastal area coverage in Massachusetts and along the Gulf.”
And then there’s the effect on the nation’s real estate market! The Sacramento Business Journal reported that in Sacramento county alone, since no home buyer can get a mortgage without flood insurance, thanks to a filibuster by Republican Senator Jim Bunning for several days, the National Association of Realtors estimated that about 1,400 real estate transactions a day were stalled during the lapse.
So if we got rid of the National Flood Insurance Program, in every county nationwide that requires flood insurance, which includes most cities on or near a river, the real estate market would come to a screeching halt. What would that do to our nation’s economy? Of course, this is only for the citizens who actually decided to stay in flood-prone areas despite the fact that there was no flood insurance available. One also has to wonder what the owners of tens of millions of acres of farmland would do when their crops were destroyed by floods, if there were no flood insurance. As I said, Ron Paul didn’t think things through.
But this article was also about FEMA, wasn’t it? So let’s think about what Ron Paul said, that people should rely on insurance alone (as if everyone can afford insurance). What happens when a major disaster hits? Let’s look at the Jones family who just lost everything, absolutely everything but the clothes on their backs, and we all know that in major disasters, such a scenario is not at all unusual.
What do the Jones do in Ron Paul world? They thank God that they’re still alive, and they wait for the insurance adjusters. Now said insurance adjusters (who may or may not have also suffered in the same disaster) are going to be trying to make it to all those covered by the company, and the numbers of their constituents can run into the thousands. So the adjusters have to each find their way to the addresses, if the addresses can be found after said disaster, mind you, and try to do their jobs. And then the real frustration starts. Why? Because if the insurance adjuster does not personally know the victims, then the victims have to somehow prove who they are, and this can be problematic if identifications were lost in the disaster. Furthermore, does the insurance company cough up money immediately? And in the unlikely event that they do, is there even a place where the victims can readily purchase food and water? Bear in mind that all this is if the insurance adjuster can find them in the first place, since they may be at what is left of their residence, or they may be in an aid shelter, or the may be someplace else shivering in the cold. And they need most of all what the insurance company does not provide (and what local charities almost certainly cannot provide enough of in a truly major disaster): food, water, blankets, clothing, medical aid.
So here’s what FEMA did in Alabama after the tornadoes struck, while they were busy frittering away our taxpayer dollars:
* $15.2 million for housing assistance grants to help with recovery rental expenses and home repair costs;
* $5.9 million for other needs assistance to cover essential disaster-related needs, such as medical expenses and lost personal possessions.
* 44,562 registered for disaster assistance;
* 20,220 applications issued by the U. S. Small Business Administration for low-interest loans to eligible homeowners, renters or business owners;
* More than 8,000 damaged homes and property inspected;
* 42 counties declared for individual assistance; and
* 18 disaster recovery centers opened.
* 2.1 million meals ready to eat (MREs);
* 1.4 million liters of water;
* 136,000 tarps.
Yep! All just a huge waste of taxpayer dollars to the Libertarian mind! Far better it is to just trust everything to insurance companies and the profit motive! Who needs government assistance! Look at Haiti! Their government has helped none at all, and look at the glorious recovery they’ve made as a nation!
Virulent invective aside, what Libertarians do not understand, indeed refuse to understand, is that no matter what, they will pay for disasters that happen to other people. If the tax dollars are not available for responses like those that FEMA provides (which aid even in the worst instances is more than what victims by themselves can hope to receive otherwise), then the people, who all too often will not be covered by insurance (since insurance companies really hate covering acts of God), will be left in the same situation as the victims in Haiti. Crime will rise sharply, and tax revenue will plummet or even become nonexistent. Jobs disappear, and people are suddenly stuck in a cycle of grinding poverty for years and years and become a drain on the federal and state budgets, using money that would otherwise go to things like defense or education or NASA or what have you. Again, every taxpayer will pay for disasters that happen to other people, and hopefully the reader of this article will come to understand that it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to pay the tax dollars up front than to pay for what can become a never-ending aftermath. Again, think Haiti.
Sure, in Ron Paul world, millions of Americans would fork over a few dollars, churches would respond, and so on and so forth, but would this be enough? Perhaps for one disaster, but would they continue to do so when the disasters strike again and again and again as they have this year, now that America has thus far (not counting Joplin, MO) been struck by