FEMA: Free Extra Money, Anyone?

In the stormy subtropics of South Florida, we who gallantly, maybe foolishly, try to live in its "capital," Miami, have serially grimaced for the past 13 years under 1) the 160-mph ill wind of Hurricane Andrew, 2) the nonexistent ill wind of Hurricane Frances (which completely missed Miami-Dade County but nevertheless resulted in thousands of its residents fraudulently applying for and receiving federal "damage" grants), and 3) the inherently ill wind of government’s FEMA.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency surprisingly was spawned not by Democrat icon Franklin Roosevelt but in 1930 by Republican pariah Herbert Hoover, who despite revisionist political history also was the first American president to legitimize the role of government, both federal and state, in combatting economic depression. Designed originally to deal simply with natural disaster, the GOP’s FEMA eventually was retrofitted by Democrats so that its major role is to coddle Americans who are too stupid or hostile to build their lives and homes on strong foundations. FEMA has become a bipartisan liberal vortex of abusers and the abused, an agency run by cronies of both Democrat and Republican presidents for the ostensible benefit of quaked, soaked, overblown or singed voters whose ballots might be purchased for the next federal election.

President Bush, you will recall, earlier this year briefly dropped the FEMA political football in the Mississippi River mud by quaintly assuming that the folk who dwell along its historically treacherous banks, especially in below-sea-level New Orleans, personally and individually would prepare themselves and their property for approaching Category Five Hurricane Katrina by performing a few basic, normal, human precautions–the first being to run like hell for the Ozark Mountains in adjacent Arkansas.

Instead, only the best and brightest of the Big Easy packed up for the biblical Exodus, leaving the worst and dullest for Revelation in the fetid Super Dome.

During hurricane-season half-time in his Oval Office locker room, President Bush reflected upon Louisianans’ suffering in a self-made purgatory and instantly rewrote his FEMA game plan. He not only changed FEMA’s quarterback but even hired better-looking cheerleaders.

Thus, by the time Category Five Hurricane Wilma drank deeply of Mexico’s problematic water, caught Montezuma’s Revenge, and predictably lost weight and strength before moving east to pummel South Florida, President Bush’s "compassionately conservative" All New and Improved FEMA Team was ready to storm, so to speak, onto the field.

It has not been a pretty sight for conservative Republicans in Florida, who twice have helped provide the winning margin for George W. Bush’s presidential elections. Along with the Sunshine State’s liberal rabble, we are bombarded hourly by radio and newspapers (without electricity, TV is not a real option) with advice for "anyone with hurricane damages" to call FEMA’s tollfree phone and apply immediately for Free Government Money–especially if we were too judgmentally challenged to have purchased homeowner’s or renter’s insurance long ago.

In other words, the players who didn’t follow the rules of life, didn’t go to practice sessions, and didn’t try to protect themselves from unnecessary roughness will be rewarded. Government will accomplish this questionable good deed for irresponsible taxeaters by transferring the money it already has extracted from responsible taxpayers–who by and large were the only players who did follow the rules, practice, and try to protect themselves. Such exemplary behavior, therefore, will result in their being punished.

It is no small additional irony that President Bush’s enigmatic friend Harriet Miers withdrew her name from Supreme Court consideration on the same day that her embarrassed patron flew fuel-guzzling Air Force One into South Florida to survey its post-Wilma suffering. Had he visited any of the tens of thousands of residents waiting in the broiling sun for hours to purchase gasoline or diesel fuel for their cars and trucks, star-crossed Mr. Bush yet again would have been embarrassed. This time (no surprise) it still is because of his goofy FEMA play book.

The ambitious gurus in Washington who currently pine to plan every citizen’s life in the storm-tossed hinterlands of the Florida peninsula efficiently have trucked in zillions of small bags of ice to chill our canned Cokes and Budweisers. For that Big Government blessing, we are coolly, if not soberly, grateful. The same geniuses, however, forgot that the only way to pump vital gas from a service-station’s underground tank to motorists when the power grid is destroyed is with a small, relatively inexpensive electricity generator. Until FEMA can figure out that simple stop-gap power solution, millions of gallons of gasoline will lie tantalizingly out of reach just beneath the feet of would-be drivers with places to go and things to do, but no way to get there or do them. An urgent message for Coach W: Hold the ice and pass the juice.