2011 has been a memorable year for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There have been plenty of disasters to respond to in the first eight months of the year. It seems that we have had a significant disaster response ongoing throughout the year with floods, storms, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and widespread flooding in almost every corner of the nation (except Texas and other Southwest states in the midst of significant drought). See FEMA Under Fire as Natural Disasters Pile Up which is a nice compilation of stories by Emergency Management Magazine staff. I can tell you that it is a good thing that FEMA has been beefed up with more staff or they would be totally overwhelmed with the disasters that they have had to respond to. Remember that they don't leave after the disaster response is over. The recovery effort will go on for months and even many years--in each community impacted by the disaster.
What I find troubling is the fight that seems to be brewing over where the funding is going to come from to replenish the Federal disaster relief fund administered by FEMA. The funds are running so low that they have had to prioritize how the remaining funds are being spent. Hurricane Irene has caused them to spend more than a week on a pretty intensive disaster response phase, especially in the Northeastern states. See FEMA’s Budget Disaster
It would appear that Republicans are looking to not draw lines in the sand, but rather in concrete in order to prove their point. This type of tactic is like stacking the bodies of disaster survivors around themselves like so many sandbags in order to hold the budget relief system hostage. Eric Cantor is saying that more money can be appropriated for disaster relief, but only if those appropriations are matched by cuts elsewhere in the Federal budget. If you want to have that debate you need to do it when you are not drastically impacting the lives of people who are waiting for Federal aid.
Disasters have been political before and will be in the future. What I hate to see is that the mechanisms that are in place to provide disaster relieve held hostage to the political process that is, as everyone knows, dysfunctional in D.C. at the present time. Thus the FEMA Category 5 Budget Disaster analogy that is tracking right for D.C. and should arrive next week in the halls of Congress when the legislators return. While most people try to hide the dysfunctional nature of our families, in D.C. it appears we wallow in it, destroying confidence in government in general and specifically in our nation's citizens who are already concerned about the current state of affairs.
Ron Paul had made the comment earlier in the week that we should go back to how we handled disasters 100 years ago. I guess that means using horses and wagons to deliver disaster relief supplies. I think his thinking is best summed up by Governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy, "I Think He's An Idiot." Hey Ron, they stopped making buggy whips a long time ago.