Ron Paul rejects FEMA role in hurricane response

And to think, Ron Paul struggles to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

After a lunch speech today, Ron Paul slammed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and said that no national response to Hurricane Irene is necessary.

“We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960,” Paul said. “I live on the gulf coast, we deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district.

“There’s no magic about FEMA. They’re a great contribution to deficit financing and quite frankly they don’t have a penny in the bank. We should be coordinated but coordinated voluntarily with the states,” Paul told NBC News. “A state can decide. We don’t need somebody in Washington.”

To be sure, this isn’t exactly surprising. It’s consistent with everything we know about Ron Paul and his ideology.

But for the record, let’s take a moment to note just how misguided his worldview really is.

As a factual matter, natural disasters hit American communities in 1900, and in time, they’d recover. But “in time” is the key part of that sentence — families and communities would struggle for a very long time to get back on their feet before federal agencies played a role in disaster response. FEMA isn’t “magic,” but so long as we overlook 2001 to 2008, it is an efficient, effective agency that’s proven itself very capable of providing much-needed assistance to hard-hit areas. If Galveston is ever hit again by hurricane, I suspect Ron Paul’s constituents will be very glad to see FEMA on the scene.

What’s more, voluntary coordination among states is a recipe for one outcome: failure. Cash-strapped states barely have the resources for schools and law enforcement; the notion that they’ll be able to prepare and respond to a natural disaster, and rebuild in its wake, without any federal role whatsoever, is ridiculous.

If Mississippi, which is not at all a wealthy state, gets hits by a hurricane, will it have the financial wherewithal to provide for the affected areas? For that matter, would Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana — none of which is wealthy — be able to effectively put together a “voluntary coordination” plan in the event of a natural disaster?

As Jay Bookman explained a few months ago, “A state suffering destruction on such a scale cannot be told to suck it up and pull itself up by its own bootstraps. After all, it is moments such as these that put the ‘United’ in the United States. We are not self-contained human units each out to maximize individual wealth and consumption; we are Americans, and we help each other out.”

On the list of things Americans can and should expect from the federal government, “disaster relief” should be one of the few responsibilities that the left and right can endorse enthusiastically. It’s something people can’t do for themselves; it’s something states can’t afford to do; and struggling communities can’t wait for the invisible hand of the free market to lift them up, especially since it’s a market private enterprise isn’t eager to enter.

“We should be like 1900”? No thanks.