With Hurricane Florence on the minds of people on the southern Atlantic coast, many eyes are focusing on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. To say the men and women who staff FEMA are under a lot of pressure is like saying Nikki Minaj is a talentless hack: it’s accurate, albeit understated. And when you have so many people directly and indirectly affected by what you do, you are expected to perform well under that pressure. Even one screw up can mean you turn into a pariah.
I’m looking at you, Michael “Brownie” Brown. These days he’s managing a Fryalator at the Regional Shanty of Flapjacks (their motto: Try our Possum and Pancake Combo Because ‘Murca.)
Leftists seem to have a love/hate relationship with FEMA. On the one hand, they have an incredible amount of power as a result of tragedy and have people relying on them for help. On the other, occasionally FEMA is run by a Republican, which makes their statist wet dreams a bit less enjoyable, but gives the Left an excuse to exploit tragedy to further their own political ends. So, any day ending in “day.”
Let’s take a closer look at FEMA, shall we?
What the Left thinks it means – a competent federal agency that works well when a Leftist is running it, but is a failure when a conservative or Republican runs it
What it really means – a government agency that both fulfills a need and infuriates small government types
And, yes, I am one of those small government types. Having said that, there are some problems that can only be handled at the federal level because of the sheer logistics necessary to resolve them. Imagine renovating a large house. Even if you are a Ron Swanson-level handyman, there are going to be some jobs you are going to need to hire out to do. You know, like if your house is lacking a floor…on every floor.
This is what FEMA does, in essence. They are the people who get hired to handle the big jobs we can’t do ourselves. And just like with every job, there are people who will go the extra mile, and there are people whose greatest effort of the day is walking over to the coffee pot. Think Congress with tool belts.
We saw the impact of this recently in Puerto Rico. Although President Donald Trump called FEMA’s reaction to Hurricane Maria “an incredible unsung success,” the visuals make it hard to take the President’s word for it. Many parts of Puerto Rico are still without power, people are sick and dying, and food and water isn’t getting to the people who need it. Even though Trump has a point about the successes of the response getting overlooked in light of the devastation, we can see where there are areas of improvement.
Therein lies one of my problems with FEMA: we keep seeing these areas of improvement without seeing anyone addressing them. Whether it was the FEMA trailers going unused and the misuse of federal funds to subsidize porn (you read that right, kids) after Hurricane Katrina to case after case of bottled water and food going unused because they weren’t distributed, you would think FEMA would be better at the logistics than they appear. Granted, whenever you deal with people, there are inefficiencies built in, but when your job is literally to help get areas affected by natural disasters up and running, the expectation is that you should be good at it.
This issue isn’t made any easier by adding politics into the mix, as the Left is wont to do with, oh, everything. It always amazes me how inept FEMA is when there is a Republican President and how exceptional that same agency is when there is a Democrat President, at least according to the Left, even though we keep seeing the same problems regardless of the party of the President. Pointing fingers may help the party, but it doesn’t matter to someone whose house was destroyed by a hurricane.
What we need is accountability at FEMA. Considering we are still cleaning up after Katrina in spite of the fact it occurred over a decade ago tells me there is room to improve, but that won’t happen in the current environment. America deserves a FEMA that not only delivers on the expectation of addressing issues after a disaster, but does so with an attention to the money being spent and how it’s being spent. And there has to be follow-through. When Puerto Ricans are dying because they don’t have access to bottled water, it shouldn’t take a year to find out about it and address it.
Maybe it’s time for a FEMA for FEMA. Instead of assuming the next disaster will be the one FEMA gets right, let’s prepare for success before it happens. Weather is unpredictable, but the response shouldn’t be. Figure out how non-government entities address disaster responses and replicate that at the federal level. Maybe take a cue or fifty from insurance companies who do at a smaller level what FEMA does on the federal level.
But perhaps the best thing we can do to help FEMA is to be thankful they’re there. Flaws and all, FEMA does a lot right and it shouldn’t be overlooked in the name of political points or personal drama. Let’s make it easier for FEMA to do their jobs without the hoops and bureaucracy that make the simplest tasks an exercise in futility, red tape, and forms in triplicate. The easier we make it for FEMA, the better the responses will become.
And if you’re in Florence’s path, stay safe.