A wide spot in my imagination.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In the event of a hurricane, don't call Ron Paul

Ron Paul is an interesting fellow. The Libertarian-leaning Republican Congressman and presidential candidate is often lauded for being honest, authentic, clear-thinking and the like. His bluntness often leaves political-watchers shaking their heads.

And with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, Mr. Paul did not disappoint. He says that we don't need FEMA or any other federal response to the hurricane. He said, "We should be like 1900." Then he mentioned Galveston, which was battered brutally by the 1900 hurricane.

At worst, Mr. Paul's ideas come across as uncaring. If your fellow citizens -- in Texas, along the East Coast, wherever you aren't -- suffer, too bad. You can help them if chose, but you're under no obligation if you think they don't deserve your money. Or if you're just not interested. Let 'em fend for themselves, Paul seems to be saying.

On another level, Congressman Paul missed out on some history. His implication is that we don't need federal assistance for disasters in 2011 because we didn't have it in 1900.

Granted, we didn't have FEMA. And we didn't have the Internet, cell phones, weather radar systems and the other things that go into modern day storm-chasing and storm-fleeing. But Galveston did have federal help following the 1900 hurricane.

The advance warning of the hurricane was less than a day. But that warning came from the U.S. Weather Bureau -- a federal entity. The federal government helped save lives.

Congressman Paul's comments also seem to imply Galvestonians happily facing that storm on their own. Not so. Major Lloyd Randoloph Dewitt Fayling coordinated the relief effort in Galveston. At the time, Major Fayling said, “The situation demands federal aid. It demanded it from the very first…. The disaster is so great and so terrible no municipal authority in the country could be expected to handle it unaided.”

And the federal government responded. The United States government sent money, supplies, and army troops -- troops who did some of the things that FEMA and other aid workers do today.

And, after the hurricane subsided, it was the federal government -- specifically the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- who built the first seawall to protect Galveston from future floods.

My hunch is that many people in Galveston were glad to see their federal dollars at work saving lives, giving aid to the devastated, and rebuilding their city in safer ways. Seems like that's what a government should do.

So, Congressman Paul may actually be right: "We should be like 1900," where individuals, city officials, state officials, and federal officials all chip in to help in the event of a natural disaster.

But if I'm ever faced with a hurricane pressing down on my house, I don't think I'll call Ron Paul. He may not feel like helping that day. Oh, and he might not have had a phone in 1900 anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim,

    Good post. I appreciate your points but I feel compelled to point out that 1900 was a completely different time than exists today. Yes, the Federal Government was more helpful after the Galveston Hurricane, as you pointed out. However, after living through Hurricane Ike 108 years later, I can tell you that the Federal Government is too wasteful, bloated, and inefficient to help in that same way today. Granted, Ike did not result in the same loss of lives as in the Hurricane of 1900, but much of that was due to advance warning and preparation, which in turn was due in large part to technological advances, as you point out in your blog. So yes, if the Federal Government were as good at "helping" as they were in 1900, then I would be all for it. But seeing how they operate today, after Ike and after Katrina, I would much rather not have their "help"!