Human Events Blog

Obama cuts FEMA

The frantic efforts of liberal apologists to claim Hurricane Sandy as evidence that only a big-spending, high-taxing, massively bloated centralized government can protect the populace from natural disasters have already been the subject of ridicule, but the more this idea is considered with reason instead of panic, the more completely it collapses.

One particular bit of liberal political opportunism concerns Mitt Romney’s supposedly heartless desire to kill innocent people by wiping out FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Romney doesn’t actually want to abolish FEMA; he thinks more of the authority and funding for disaster relief should be moved to the state level.

But one candidate in this race absolutely has cut FEMA funding, and wants to cut it even more: Barack Hussein Obama.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, “Mr. Obama’s own fiscal 2013 budget sought $10.008 billion. That was a cut of $641.5 million, or 6.02%, from fiscal 2012. We couldn’t find an apples-to-apples comparison in the Ryan budget resolution, because FEMA spending was part of a larger category and the Senate never did pass its budget. But if budget cuts to FEMA are the liberal standard, their beef is with Mr. Obama.”

In contrast, as Fox News points out, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget “doesn’t specifically mention disaster relief but includes considerable cuts to domestic discretionary spending.”

The Wall Street Journal also relays an observation from the Heritage Foundation that FEMA has been drawn into relatively minor “disasters” due to political machinations with increasing frequency.  “Annual FEMA disaster declarations have multiplied since the Clinton years and have reached a yearly average of 153 under Mr. Obama,” reports Matt Mayer of the Heritage Foundation.  “That compares to 129.6 under George W. Bush, 89.5 under Mr. Clinton, and only 28 a year under Reagan.”

Obviously, we’re not having six times as many massive disasters under Obama as we were in the 1980s.  I sat in on a FEMA briefing yesterday in which the agency described itself as primarily distributing economic assistance, while state authorities and local personnel handled most of the field work, which is perfectly sensible.  Economic assistance is important, but there’s only so much money to go around; if FEMA expends its resources on 152 other disasters, there’s less money to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

And the sequestration spending cuts, a product of Democrat intransigence, are scheduled to knock $878 million from the FEMA budget.  Liberal efforts to spin this as Republicans’ fault are ludicrous.  We only have sequestration because the deficit-cutting Super Committee failed; it failed because Democrats insist on job-killing tax increases that wouldn’t come anywhere near resolving our budget crisis.  The same Democrats constantly insist that job creation is their top priority, but they’d rather lose jobs through tax increases than cut any of their precious government spending.

We only had a fiscal crisis because Barack Obama and the Democrat Congress, all the way back to their capture of both houses in 2006, have given us permanent trillion-dollar budget deficits.  We wouldn’t have a fiscal crisis if Big Government lived within its means.  Too many Republicans were accessories to this process, but as a matter of current political positions, it’s the Democrats who want to stick other people with their bills while they keep running up the national credit cards.  Remember, long before there was a Super Committee or sequestration, Obama’s initial demand was for a “clean” debt increase with no conditions or spending cuts at all.

So Obama has cut FEMA, and he wanted to cut it even more.  Maybe it needs to be cut, or restructured – it should be no more immune to reform than any other federal agency, but the notion that Mitt Romney is uniquely determined to wipe it out, because killing the wives of steelworkers with cancer is too slow to satisfy his bloodlust and he’d rather watch them drown, is pure malarkey.

An article in the New York Times today notes the persistent charges that FEMA tends to throw money around indiscriminately, with $643 million incorrectly distributed after Hurricane Katrina.  A FEMA employee quoted in a Homeland Security report said the agency “begs people to call and apply, even if they are not sure they are eligible.”  Like every other government agency, they generally want to spend every nickel and tell Congress they need even more, so their budget is increased – every year, forever and ever, amen.  When the agency in question is federal, they have a lot more money to spend, and a vast national jurisdiction full of opportunities to spend it.  Who has a better chance of correcting that attitude: the guy from Bain Capital, or President Solyndra?

If you want the government to handle its important duties well, get rid of the Party that keeps frittering away trillions of dollars on non-essential garbage.  One of Obama’s recurring lines in the presidential debates was that budgets are how we determine the priorities of our government.  It was absurd coming from the head of a Party that hasn’t passed a budget in over four years, and whose own budget proposals drew not a single vote from members of his own Party, but Obama’s basic point is quite correct.  The funding available to government is limited, and within the next couple of years, we will receive firm and disastrous reminders that the amount of money it can borrow is limited, too.  So do you want a trillion-dollar welfare state, complete with a food stamp program that has doubled in size over the past four years, or do you want a well-funded Federal Emergency Management Agency?  Budgeting is about choosing between guns and butter… or between safety nets and sandbags.

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