Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disaster Response Despondency

The Northeast is learning what the southeast has some time ago.  Federal disaster response is not what it used to be.

From what I can best tell the change started with Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina back when Clinton was president.  North Carolina had a significant rainy day fund that it had accumulated and kicked it in to help the people affected by the disaster.  Floyd at the time was known for having hit the some traditional African American communities.  African American communities, a Democratic President, a State Legislature, and a Democratic Governor, the presumption that the Federal money was following seemed like a safe one.

That money took a long time coming.  Why was there a pull back?  Adjusting for inflation the 1989 Oakland area earthquake had been enormously expensive.  Politics had kept the money spigot open for an extended period of time.  it helps to have your earthquake televised during the World Series.  Ten years latter, with Hurricane Floyd covering such a large area, one suspects that there was a reluctance to pay a similar amount of money for an area that was not considered to be economically vital to the country.

Both FEMA, and the insurance companies were able to get away with the foot dragging to some degree.  When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and travelled well into the mountain regions of the East Coast, the poor response by FEMA and the insurance companies was not an accident.  There was an understanding that we no longer had the ability to pay for wide spread disaster relief.  From an insurance point of view, it is dubious that policies that would have to pay out on such a broad scale at one time where ever realistic to begin with.  A forced savings program would have been more realistic, but is not politically realistic.

Well we are back to the Northeast.  And they are learning some hard lessons.  Note that the first article is from a month ago and the budge issue is still unresolved.

Daniel Stone, The Daily Beast, 27 August 2011

It’s been a busy year for America’s disaster agency, and that may soon spell disaster for its budget.
It started with severe winter storms in the east and southwest in January. Tsunami waves from the Japanese earthquake struck the West Coast and Hawaii in March, followed by the tornado that flattened parts of southern Missouri in May. Several Midwest states saw flooding earlier this month. And an earthquake and hurricane rocked the East Coast this week.

So far in 2011 the Federal Management Agency (FEMA) has responded to  “major disasters” 65 times, among the highest in the agency’s history. The unprecedented demand has stretched the agency and its budget increasingly thin.

Robert Pear, New York Times, 26 September 2011 via Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette

TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. -- Standing in the living room of their house, now full of mud, slime and debris, Helen and Peter Kelly cannot believe that Congress is bickering over disaster aid to people like them.

The roaring waters of the Susquehanna River burst into their home in Mehoopany more than two weeks ago. "Water -- you work with it every day, and then it destroys your whole life," Mrs. Kelly said.

Her husband, still looking shell-shocked, said: "We lost everything. Stove, washer, dryer, TV. Hot water heater, clothes, dishes, refrigerator. Everything, just gone."
The Kellys also lost confidence in government and politicians.


Mayberry said...

The Kellys, obviously, have not been paying attention. I guess the S really does have to HTF before most people will wake up...

russell1200 said...

You being in Texas, and having a few of them come your way no what I am talking about. But the government as nanny idea is still alive.

There was an article in our newspaper about local grandparents who were having severe hardship because after their children lost custody (not stated, but presumably due to some sort of criminal violation) they were taking care of their grandchildren. There point was that the government paid Foster Parents, so they should be paid to.

Well the cynical part of me was curious, based on their track record on the first go round, what exactly we would be paying for.

But I was more amazed at the presumption that our country has some sort of universal safety net that protects people from all negative consequences - self inflicted or otherwise. Given that the typical social security recipient burns through every bit of cash they have put into the system in three years, I wonder just where they thought the money to come for this expanded feature would come from.

Degringolade said...

Hey Guy, You have the same problem that I had. I really enjoyed Reamde. Bought the damn thing on Friday and read it by Monday. Sleep be damned.

That boy can write.

russell1200 said...

I am sleeping, and I take notes while I am reading which also slows me up a little. His research/ eye for detail is amazing. I am on "day 4" so I am a little quicker than a realtime pace. Of the realtime, much like Scarrow's very good "Last Ligtht" shifts through many points of view.