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I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Spring is in the air... and so is FEMA

Please tell me why.

I'll preface this by saying what I am talking about is not likely to be popular.

But please tell me why people continue to live in areas that are so vulnerable to extreme weather disasters?  And while you are at it, please tell me why the people that choose to live in those areas are entitled to continued government aid from those of us who have made better choices as to where to live.

Now before you stop reading and send me a note that this is a symptom of the liberal mindset, a few facts.

FEMA was started in 1979 by Executive Order under Democratic President Carter.  But the roots of government aid in the face of national disasters go all the way back to the 1930's under Republican President Hoover.  Programs were expanded, contracted, improved, or let to languish under administrations of both parties.  Additionally, congressional leaders of both parties have been critics and boosters of this type government aid, depending on whether or not their citizens, or better said, political constituents were affected.  In short, the history of federal aid to states, localities, and individual citizens, in the face of tragedy has been truly bipartisan.

There is no other way to honestly characterize this reality, so let's not go there.  Instead, let's ask some tough questions.

For hundreds of years the mighty Mississippi has flooded, sending waves of water into cities and homes up and down the banks of this important river.  And for years, government has been paying to help rebuild peoples homes, renovate farms, and bail out businesses that have chosen to live in a place where almost annually, the river floods.

New Orleans is a city sitting on a powder keg, or rather, under that powder keg given its below sea level status.  Due to the risk of flooding, dikes and sea walls are maintained at a huge cost to tax payers so that people can live in an area of almost constant risk.

Across the midwest, people live in what is called Tornado Alley, so named because almost every year, tornados rip into this area like what we have seen in the last few weeks.

Recently, President Obama and Governor Chris Christie celebrated the continued rebuilding of the Jersey Shore, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, largely on the dime of the federal government.  Soon you can bet that our President will be standing beside Governor Brown in California pledging support for people whose homes were lost in yet another forest fire raging in that state.

Year after year, time after time, people in places like Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Missouri swamp the government with requests for aid, help and relief from their poor decisions to live in areas of risk.  It is as if we have forgotten the old real estate maxim of caveat emptor, or buyer beware.

I am not against government giving immediate aid and relief to people who have been devasted by things like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, intense flooding like what we saw recently in San Antonio and the recent spate of tornados that have moved across our great country.  When people are in immediate peril, our governments, state, local and national should spring to action to help those get to safety.  Our goal should be to do all we can to save lives and get people out of harms way.

What I am against is the constant paying for, in some cases time and time again, the rebuilding of homes and businesses in known disaster prone areas.  You want to live in a forest or or on the coast?  You cannot imagine giving up your view of the Oklahoma Plain?  Fine, but you should accept the risk and the consequences of your decision, because disaster in those areas is fairly common and predictable.

Why should someone like me, who lives in a relatively safe state, but pays for that with extreme summer heat, have to effectively subsidize those who choose to live on the Jersey Shore, Gulf Coast or the mountains above Los Angeles?

You want to live there?  Fine with me.  You want to rebuild your home below sea level in New Orleans?  By all means, feel free to do so.  But beyond life saving emergency aid, you should not expect your government to be your rebuilding partner.  Get yourself some insurance.  Save your money for a rainy day. Tap your relatives, but don't expect me to pay to rebuild your patio overlooking a hurricane plagued seashore or a tornado prone great plain.

As President Obama has repeatedly said, we, the people of the United States, are here to help when there is a need.

What we should not be here to do is repeatedly rescue people from the poor decisions they have made to live in harms way. You want to live there?  Go right ahead.  It's your right.  But if you are living in an area that has a history of repeated disaster, you should not expect me. the federal, or any other level of government to rescue your from your bad judgment or continued stubbornness.

What say you?

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Comments on "Spring is in the air... and so is FEMA"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:00 AM) : 

I can certainly agree on your points, however - once must realize that are danger areas just about everywhere along coastal and mid-western areas. Should California state evacuate because of earthquake risks? Should southern Florida, NC, and Virginia coastal areas be abandoned? There is almost no place completely safe from some sort of natural disaster whether it be hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, or blizzards. It is a challenging topic to handle, but perhaps a matrix of "highest risk" areas of the us based on historical data might help identify specific areas of biggest potential risk. To offset risk, taxes and insurance may have to be higher in these areas, which will naturally dissuade people from living there.

- Jesse E.


Anonymous Steve Wunderink said ... (9:01 AM) : 



Blogger Dave Miller said ... (10:53 AM) : 

Jesse, you bring up some good points and I have long wondered how California fits in regarding earthquakes.

Maybe I am willing to cut them a little slack because earthquakes are fairly unpredictable. There is no earthquake season like there is a fire season, tornado season, or hurricane season.

Or maybe I am more willing to overlook CA because I grew up there.

But part of me wants to say this... you get one rebuild from us. After that, you're on your own. Some of these folks are on their second house rebuilt with gov't aid.

But here's the other side.

In CA after the Northridge Quake, the SF Valley was devastated. Working in that area I saw firsthand how money from the feds really helped the economy as tons of folks had jobs in the rebuilding effort.

But what I also saw was tons of abuse as people tried, and many times were successful at scamming the system.

Bottom line though for me... choose wisely where to live, and get insurance. It's your house, and life, to take care of...


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (10:53 AM) : 

Steve... I knew you would...


Anonymous Denny Eitniear said ... (6:21 PM) : 

I agree wholeheartedly with your observations Dave. Perhaps we should have a risk based Federal income tax. Your taxes will be pro-rated based on where you live, thereby subsidising your own rebuild when disaster strikes.


Blogger BB-Idaho said ... (11:26 AM) : 

It appears that FEMA has turned down aid requests from Texas for the fertilizer plant explosion..
1. Hardly a 'natural' disaster
2. The company was at fault and should pay
...but the Texas GOP is sure


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (2:20 PM) : 

I saw that BB... the honorable guv Perry, who has said he believes states need to live without federal aid, for some reason now wants federal aid.

Very interesting Mr. Kotter...


Blogger skudrunner said ... (9:09 AM) : 

I would agree with a lot of what you post regarding living in a coastal area, alone the mighty Mississippi and NO. Tornadoes are the one natural disaster who has no boundaries. Yes the plains of Kansas and Oklahoma are targets but so is Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and even the East coat.

FEMA is too bloated to be efficient and effective. Money should be granted to the states to manage natural disasters. There would be corruption but maybe not as much.

We may disagree on a few political issues but I do admire your work.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (12:50 PM) : 

Thanks Skud... My worry is that as we are seeing multiple visits in disaster prone areas, why is any level of government paying for reconstruction?

Emergency aid? Yes... reconstruction? No.

It is just stupid policy.


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