Big Storms and Big Government

Taking the opportunity yesterday to jockey for head of the line privileges for federal disaster relief money, The New York Times ran an editorial entitled “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.” In the piece, the Times editors made the case that “disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of ‘big government.’” Further, the Times boldly claimed that “many [Republicans] 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.” Apparently the Times is taking Rahm Emanuel’s and Hillary Clinton’s advice about “not wasting a crisis” seriously.

Notice how the Times editors refer to “free aid.” Most of us are quite aware that nothing is free; someone had to contribute (willingly or otherwise) the aid in order for it to be available. The federal government’s “disaster relief” coffers don’t get filled for free; the money is coming from taxpayers. Throughout their editorial, the editors dismiss Mitt Romney’s idea about returning disaster relief over to the individual states—and ultimately, over to private enterprise—calling it “an absurd notion.” But why is it anymore absurd than having the fed involved? The Times never bothers telling us.

The editors do ask an important rhetorical question though. In the final paragraph of their shrill editorial, they write: “Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency?” Maybe, maybe not. But this is not Romney’s primary point. It doesn’t matter who will do a “better” job—although I have yet to experience or hear about a “properly functioning federal agency” anyway—what matters is who is really liable for storm and weather related damage. This is not a function of the federal government, constitutionally speaking, so it should—at least according to the Tenth Amendment—fall to the jurisdiction and responsibility of the states (at the very most).

If states choose to use state money to repair and rebuild, that is their prerogative, but it is not the responsibility of the taxpayers in Texas to fund the rebuilding efforts in New Jersey. Texans are certainly welcome and encouraged to send relief aid and supplies if they so desire, but they should not and must not be forced to pay through the strong arm of the federal tax collector. This is not a power given to the federal government by the founding and primary ruling document of the United States: the Constitution of the United States.

It is precisely times like this that big government is allowed to get even bigger. Emotional times of loss and disaster are not times for making political decisions. Storms and natural disasters are a reality, but they are not the norm. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, much less the house we live in or the car we drive. Nature sometimes makes it presence known in a powerful way, but the solution is not more federal intervention or more government bureaucracy.

For as much as the Times wants to praise FEMA, I recommend the editors take a look back at what actually happened during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and ask the very important question of who did the most to help the victims: privately funded individuals and charities or federally funded government workers? The FEMA debacle in New Orleans and the surrounding areas was nothing if not an argument for precisely what Mitt Romney is saying. When your roof is lying in your front yard, who are you going to call: your neighbors or your congressman? Most Americans already know the answer, despite what the big government lovers at The New York Times say to the contrary.