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10/01/2005 Archived Entry: "FEMA's Success"

FEMA has been getting a lot of bad press lately. It seems nearly everyone who was anywhere near the areas hit by hurricane Katrina has tales to tell of FEMA being FUBAR. The complaints are legion: late aid, turning away private help, refusing help from professional first responders, mismanagement, incompetence, corruption, and much, much more.

The sad truth is that FEMA did not fail, it has succeeded, and will emerge from Katrina stronger, better funded, better staffed, better armed, and more powerful than ever before. It did it before, now it has done it again.

This may seem confusing, but only because most non-bureaucrats think that FEMA’s job is to help people after disasters. Were FEMA a private enterprise, this would be true, and FEMA would succeed or fail depending upon how well it performed this function.

FEMA is not a private enterprise; it is a large government bureaucracy. It is not rewarded or punished based upon how well is performs its supposed function. It is not subject to the iron laws of the free market. It does not have to please those subject to its “services,” rather it must convince fellow parasites who control the flow of tax loot to give some of the booty to FEMA.

The first goal of any bureaucracy is to ensure its survival; the second goal is to enlarge its size and power. FEMA had a pretty good run until Bushimo came along. FEMA was created by Jimmy Carter in 1979. The POTUS who was so unable to delegate authority that he personally scheduled the White House tennis courts ran true to form: rather than referee the inevitable catfight over which agency would get the new money for FEMA, he made it a cabinet-level agency, reporting directly to the POTUS. FEMA's powers were vastly expanded by the Reagan administration to include ensuring “continuity of government” and rounding up trouble makers. Its powers grew to be so broad that critics complained they approached martial law. Sweeping powers, expanding budget, answerable to only to the POTUS, those were the good old days!

FEMA is an old hand at bungling response to hurricanes. After Andrew killed a score of people in 1992, FEMA was late in responding, unorganized, and generally incompetent. Sound familiar?

The key point: FEMA did not pay a price for this “failure.” In fact, it prospered as a direct result. The sitting POTUS, Bush the Elder, lost a big lead in the Florida polls, and narrowly escaped losing the state of Florida to Bill Clinton. Both Clinton and Bush understood the significance of this shift, so upon taking the throne Clinton immediately began pouring more money and manpower into FEMA. The emphasis was shifted from “continuity of government” (although those sweeping powers were never given up) to response to natural disasters, which of course needed more people, more offices, more money, and more power.

Notice what happened. FEMA screws up a hurricane response, FEMA gets more money, people, and power. FEMA certainly learned this lesson.

Things went just great until Bushimo was elected. He had plans that didn’t include FEMA; countries to invade, people to murder, economies to destroy, liberties to trample. The war machine is a more effective tool for transferring hundreds of billions of dollars to favored cronies, much better than messing with the hundreds of millions of dollars that FEMA threw at disasters. Why wait for a natural disaster when you can create one anytime you please?

FEMA suffered greatly. It was adsorbed by the bloated-at-birth DHS. This is a fate almost worse than death for a bureaucracy; they lost their direct access to POTUS, and instead had to please other bureaucrats. Their budget was cut, their powers reduced, their staff scattered and lost. It was a dark time.

Along came Katrina. Former FEMA head Michael Brown may not know one end of a horse from the other, but he knows how to work the levers of political power. Sure, he “took one for the team,” but don’t worry too much; these people take care of their own.

You see the results already; tens of billions of dollars have been showered on FEMA, with much, much more to follow. FEMA will probably be granted the authority to override “uncooperative” or “dysfunctional” state and local authorities. FEMA will be larger, better able to control and secure areas, better able to turn away “renegade” private efforts to help people, and their handlers at DHS had better not get in their way, lest the wrath of POTUS be unleashed.

Michael Brown told Congress on Wednesday that he was happy to be the scapegoat if it resulted in FEMA regaining the prestige and funding levels it enjoyed before being assimilated by the DHS in 2003. He also responded to calls to repeal those pesky laws that prevent turning the US military lose on US citizens. “If we break that concept of federalism, we minimize our effectiveness and maximize our potential for failure.” What most of the reporters who heard this statement did not understand was who Mr. Brown was referring to when he said “our.” If you’ve made it this far, you know to substitute “FEMA’s” for “our” to understand his real meaning.


Posted by Silver @ 06:40 AM CST

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