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Why Ending FEMA Will Improve Disaster Response

November 18, 2014 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Under the U.S. Constitution, the powers delegated to the federal government are “few and defined,” as James Madison noted in Federalist 45, while the powers of the states “will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.”

That decentralized structure of government has served America well, but it has been rapidly eroding as Washington grabs ever more power over domestic policy. One troubling area of federal expansion is the preparation and response for natural disasters, such as hurricanes. The interventions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies are increasingly displacing the activities of the states and private organizations.

In decades past, individuals, businesses, and charities took the lead on disasters. After the devastating San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, for example, the private response was huge. Aid poured in from across the country, with millionaires such as Andrew Carnegie making major contributions. Southern Pacific Railroad evacuated 200,000 people from the city at no charge. Home-products company Johnson and Johnson rushed in free supplies. Insurance companies paid out the vast majority of claims for the 90 percent of all property owners who had policies. The Red Cross and other charities also provided relief.

In recent decades, these sorts of private responses are being replaced by federal intervention. President Jimmy Carter created FEMA by executive order in 1979, and Congress created the current legal structure for disaster relief in the 1988 Stafford Act. The Act allows for federal intervention only if disasters are of “such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments.” But the government often violates that limit by intervening in emergencies that could be handled locally.

The number of federal disaster declarations — which authorize federal spending — has soared from an average of 29 a year in the 1980s to 139 a year so far in the 2010s. FEMA spending has grown from an average $0.7 billion a year in the 1980s to $13 billion a year in the 2010s. The huge and often wasteful federal spending after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 could become the norm as politicians clamor for subsidies and ignore constitutional and statutory limits on federal power.

In a new Cato Institute study, I describe problems caused by growing federal intervention:

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Letter to the Editor: Not One Rule for Thee, But Another for Me

November 18, 2014 in Economics

By Roger Pilon

Roger Pilon

Dear Sirs:

In their respective letters (Nov. 11) criticizing Sen. Orrin Hatch and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray’s “After Harry Reid , the GOP Shouldn’t Unilaterally Disarm” (op-ed, Nov. 6), which urges the new Republican Senate not to reinstate the filibuster for judicial nominees, Frank Oelerich and Parker O’Brien both miss the point. You can’t have one rule for Republicans and another for Democrats, as we had with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Mr. Oelerich writes that “the filibuster rule had been a time-tested and democratic way” of protecting the minority party. True, for legislation. But it was only in 2003 after they lost the Senate that the Democrats started filibustering President Bush’s judicial nominees. When Republicans filibustered President Obama’s judicial nominees, selectively, Sen. Reid went “nuclear,” eliminating it. It’s heads I win, tails you lose.

When the letter writers both urge Republicans to avoid hypocrisy by reinstating the judicial filibuster, they not only misunderstand the history of the matter, but point their fingers at the wrong party. With Democrats having twice shown themselves quite capable of hypocrisy and unwilling to play by the rules—whatever they may be—it’s no time for Republicans to unilaterally disarm, as Messrs. Hatch and Gray put it. You needn’t be a partisan to understand that.

Roger Pilon is vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute, founder and director of Cato’s Center for Constitutional Studies, and publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review.

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Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Rand Paul Appears on Fox's Hannity – November 17, 2014

November 18, 2014 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Responds to Attacks in Israel

November 18, 2014 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul today issued the following statement in response to the brutal attack that took place in a Jerusalem synagogue, resulting in the death of three Americans: ‘I am deeply saddened and alarmed by the attacks that took place early this morning in Israel. These men of faith were cruelly murdered as they were worshiping in their synagogue in Har Nof. I vow to Stand with Israel and I will continue to do all I can to protect Americans at home and abroad. This is a horrific act of violence that should be universally condemned. We must demand that Palestinian leaders stop the incitement, which they have committed in word and in deed. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel,’ Sen. Paul said.
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Source: RAND PAUL

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency: Floods, Failures, and Federalism

November 18, 2014 in Economics

Federalism is supposed to undergird America’s system of handling disasters, particularly natural disasters. State, local, and private organizations should play the dominant role. Today, however, growing federal intervention is undermining the role of private institutions and the states in handling disasters. In a new paper, Cato scholar Chris Edwards looks at FEMA’s response to major disasters, and argues that policymakers should reverse course and begin cutting FEMA. “Ultimately,” says Edwards, “the agency should be closed down by ending aid programs for disaster preparedness and relief and privatizing flood insurance.”

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Source: CATO HEADLINES