John Stossel’s latest video deconstructs the politics of federal involvement in reacting to natural disasters. It also sets up a completely appropriate dichotomy: The federal government should be involved in emergency response, but it shouldn’t be involved in the reconstruction that follows.
Many who favor limited government point out that until recent decades, the federal involvement in disaster relief and reconstruction has been minimal.
Indeed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasn’t created until April 1, 1979, late in the administration of Jimmy Carter. Prior to that time, federal disaster relief and recovery was brought into the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Nixon, and the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration was created as a unit within that department.
Although the decision to create FEMA was controversial, the agency has generally been viewed favorably, with the response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina being its one substantial black eye.
Under the 2002 federal agency-shuffling Homeland Security Act, FEMA was placed under the Department of Homeland Security. Ironically, George W. Bush’s FEMA Director Michael Brown had warned in September 2003 that FEMA’s absorption into DHS would “shatter agency morale” and “break longstanding, effective and tested relationships with states and first responders.”
John Stossel doesn’t question federal disaster response, just rebuilding
Perhaps what is most interesting, then, is that even Stossel doesn’t question what he regards as FEMA’s appropriate emergency response:
Only the federal government can send in the military and other first responders. After Irma, 13,000 national guard soldiers helped rescue and evacuate people. This is the kind of emergency response we’d expect from the federal government. But rebuilding afterwards?
That’s the queue, at 1:09 into the video, for Stossel to get to his point: There really isn’t or shouldn’t be federal largess spent on efforts to rebuild. The federal government truly brings nothing to the table that state governments, businesses and private charities cannot do better.
Watch the full video here: