Sunday, May 9, 2010

Right Attacks FEMA And President's Response To Flooding, Contradicting States' Rights Claims That FEMA Oversteps Federal-State Boundaries

I had read this article on Fox News regarding a looming financial crisis for FEMA and had come across an interesting statement, regarding the belief that role of the federal government in disaster relief operations:
"From an operational standpoint, disaster response should be driven by state and local governments, as they are the owners of most of the response resources and they are the first on the scene when disaster strikes," Jena Baker McNeill and Matt Mayer of the Heritage Foundation said in a report published last month. "Supplanting this funding encourages state and local governments to not be prepared, knowing that the federal government will bail them out."

The report found that the yearly average of FEMA declarations has tripled from 43 under the first President Bush to 89 under President Clinton to 130 under the second President Bush.

President Obama issued 108 declarations in his first year in office – the 12th highest in FEMA history – without the occurrence of one hurricane or other major disaster, the report said. In the first three months of 2010, Obama has issued 32 declarations, putting him on pace for 128 declarations for the year – the sixth most in FEMA history, according to the report.

The report says the reason behind the increase is governors, as their state budgets decline, are more likely to seek emergency declarations from FEMA that requires the federal government pay up to 100 percent of the disaster response bill.
According to the article, conservative organizations, like the Heritage Foundation, believe that FEMA is an over-extension of the government and a form of bailout for state and local governments. Critics say that because FEMA acts as a safety net, states don't sufficiently prepare for natural disasters. This line of thinking is very interesting regarding the calls from the right regarding President Obama's response to disasters such as the oil rig explosion in the Gulf and flooding in Tennessee.

Take, for example, Sean Hannity. On his Fox News program, Hannity has consistently attacked President Obama and the administration, claiming Obama had ignored the floods in Tennessee.
This was a bad week, I think one of the worst weeks for the press. We have this massive flood, and we're going to get into this in a special report we're going to do on the program tomorrow night. We have a massive flood in Nashville, the president, as of now, has yet to comment on it. I mean, loss of life, devastation, financial ruin.
Of course, this was disproved by the folks at Media Matters had supplied enough information to debunk Hannity, pointing to immediate statements and actions taken the administration to supply federal aid as well as a Fox News report quoting Tenessee Gov. Phil Bredesen on the response from the administration: "FEMA and the White House could not have been more helpful in this thing."

Bredesen gave a positive review of the administration's actions, stating that he had never seen the federal government respond as it had recently and that he was "pleased."

Hannity's lies regarding the administration and his obvious support for government intervention seems to violate the principles he claims to stand up for. It seems hypocritical for Hannity to attack the government on one instance, such as the bailouts or health care, but then attack the government for supposedly not intervening in state affairs. Hannity is not the only one either. The entire right-wing of the GOP is guilty of this. All the talking heads, from Limbaugh to Beck, have made a case for states' rights, and the issue has been sewn into the fabric of the Tea Party movement, whose anti-establishment and limited government message has seemed to dominate the conservative ideological war.

An underlying issue regarding the states' rights issue is "state sovereignty," and the right to secede. Arguments, such as the ones made by Hannity, seem to support the idea of government intervention only for political convenience when a significant portion of the population are somewhat effected by a problem and seek assistance from the federal government, but then they revert back to a limited government platform, and should government overreach, a state should have the right to secede.

Conservatives constantly use the states' rights argument, and then falsely look back at the Civil War, ignoring the prominent role slavery had in the conflict, and insist that the war occurred due to an overreaching federal government.

Professor Fred Morrison of the University of Minnesota School of Law had given his opinion regarding secession:
I think the Constitutional argument is in large part a political argument, and it is one that has been tried by radical forces in the past and failed. There is no basis in the Constitution for states leaving the union. It is a union that was set up without any exit strategy, so I think the argument is entirely without merit.
Despite this simply put statement, conservative ideologues seem to miss the point - the constitution is a binding document. Conservatives like to claim strict interpretations only when it suits their needs, but in other instances, such as gay marriage, health care, or secession, they rely on their interpretations of the founding father's intentions.

Michael C. Dorf, professor of law at Cornell University, had pointed out in a particular article, states are not indestructible, and can be divided by the federal government, as was the case with Massachusetts, which was divided into what we now call Maine and Massachusetts. Being that the federal government has the power to divide a state, it would seem impossible to imagine granting a state the same authority.

The whole purpose of that tangent is to illustrate that the right-wing really have no understanding of their talking points. They sound good in an argument and they roll with it, but in reality, what they preach is in direct conflict with the other things they preach.

The right likes to attack federal intervention, but they seem to cry when they feel the federal government isn't doing enough. A real question for proponents of states' rights is not the role of the federal government, but a clear definition of what they want state responsibilities to be, but in doing so, they lose the flexibility to contradict themselves at a later date.

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