October 31, 2012
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Godspeed to those who must recover and rebuild. Let us take this opportunity to be reminded that America can sustain and will thrive even after such devastation caused by Sandy.
As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, the New York Times took the opportunity to publish an editorial politicizing the storm that caused dozens of deaths.
The Heritage Foundation’s Matt Mayer explains how the Times took advantage of this catastrophe in the Orange County Register:
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.”
Mayer says this line of attack just isn’t true. Conservatives believe that FEMA has a role in responding to national catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and Hurricane Sandy. In he last twenty years, though, local natural disasters have been nationalized, spreading FEMA’s resources too thin to be fully prepared for catastrophes:
Since 1993, FEMA has nationalized more and more disasters that were historically handled and paid for entirely by states and localities. 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.
According to the Government Accountability Office, FEMA is dangerously close to over-extending its resources. Considering that there are over one hundred state of emergency declarations from states every year, it’s no surprise FEMA just cannot keep up with the funding and staff needed to respond effectively for devastating disasters.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act requires FEMA to get involved when the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that it overwhelms state and local resources. But since 1993, very few natural disasters that have received FEMA declarations truly meet that definition.
Mayer presents an alternative that recognizes the practical limits to federal power:
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 … 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.
Do you think local governments should be more involved in disaster response?