Monday, September 12, 2005

In response to idiocy

I've been reading a lot about how Hurricane Katrina has proven that the federal government doesn't work well in situations like these and how it's incumbent on locals not to rely on the feds in times like these. I even received an e-mail from one person, who called me a "socialist...who believes that it is the Feds responsibiliy to take care of everybody." Ah, genius. I'm not arguing for a nanny state, but only a federal government that can do its job. Katrina hasn't proven that federal government can't help people in times like these, but only that the incompetents who make up the Bush administration can't.

The truth is that FEMA and the DHS have -- and say they have -- primary responsibility for major disasters. How "Clintonian" of the aforementioned writer to try to parse those words -- "It all depends on what the meaning of primary responsibility is." And how Gingrich-like of him to call me a "socialist" rather than admit that maybe, just maybe, Bush shouldn't have nominated a political crony with a bogus resume and no experience to head such an important part of the government. Kudos to him! He's a true Republican bullshit artist!

I'm sure I'll see him running for office very soon.

Here's the real issue: Since a state can often not deal with a disaster as it's occurring (imagine, say, trying to put a house fire out from inside the house) the federal government must bring outside assistance to bear. Sure, I think the local response could have been better, but there was virtually no response from the administration officials in charge of the tools intended to deal with just such an occurrence. I'm reminded of a couple of lines from the Federalist Papers. James Madison -- who, admittedly, was talking about war -- supported a larger role for federal government in paper #41 and argued for it by saying that, "In the present condition of America, the States more immediately exposed to these calamities have nothing to hope from the phantom of a general government which now exists; and if their single resources were equal to the task of fortifying themselves against the danger, the object to be protected would be almost consumed by the means of protecting them."

Again, I know that even Grover Norquist must support the idea of America going to war under a federal and not a state banner, but wouldn't a situation like Katrina also "consume" the states affected if left to their own devices? Wouldn't that be wrong? Bush and others seem to think so, as they've already pushed through billions of dollars in aid. It follows that, if we support the aid to the stricken area after the fact, then wouldn't we have to support the idea of aid to the area before and during the crisis, when, rather than simply picking up the pieces of the disaster, it might have actually saved lives and, hell, maybe even dollars? We were at least a day faster in responding to the Tsunami in Asia. It only took two days for Poppy Bush to authorize federal troops when a rash of "uppityness" broke out in Los Angeles. For God's sake -- we began dropping food into Berlin the day after the blockade began.

So, unless you're willing to start protesting the federal relief effort, then you have to admit that the federal government a) has a proper and necessary role in situations like this and b) should have responded sooner in order to help those who most needed it. Which brings up the second thought called to mind from the Federalist Papers. Alexander Hamilton (FP #70), responding to those who argued against a strong federal government and executive branch in favor of greater state powers by saying, "A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government."


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