Surely you’ve seen it, making the rounds on the interwebs: Romney’s comment from the spring that he would like to shut down FEMA. Now we have a hurri-blizzard-snowicane-Frankenstorm, everyone’s saying that Romney is totally clueless. (Here’s a sample.)
Romney’s point, for those who missed it, is that state governments are better-equipped to handle local disasters, and that the private sector (e.g. the Red Cross) is very adept at disaster relief. (More on this later.)
There are other problems with Big Government disaster relief, as highlighted by the Japanese relief efforts. (Hat tip: Instapundit.) A recent audit shows that the money that was to be used for disaster relief and rebuilding has instead been allocated to totally unrelated projects, such as building roads and sports stadiums in areas far removed from the tsunami. Here’s what the NY Times, the same paper that trashed Gov. Romney yesterday for his comments on disaster relief, has to day:
The audits have cast a harsh light on the bureaucratic morass slowing Japan’s reconstruction effort, made worse by outlays of money to the unrelated projects seen by many as a throwback to the country’s days of unrestrained pork-barrel spending. The revelations are an embarrassment for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose Democratic Party promised to make public spending more transparent when it came to power in 2009.
Among the projects that secured a slice of the reconstruction budget, according to the agency, are 330 million yen (about $4.1 million) in fixes to a sports stadium in central Tokyo; 500 million yen (almost $6.3 million) to build roads in Okinawa, over 1,000 miles from the disaster zone; and 2.3 billion yen (almost $29 million) toward measures to protect Japan’s whaling fleet from environmental activists.
A separate audit by Yoshimitsu Shiozaki, an expert in urban planning from Kobe University who looked at 9.2 trillion yens’ worth (over $115 billion) of spending, found that a quarter of that amount was allocated to projects unlikely to directly benefit anyone in the disaster zone.
Big-government spending ends up going towards a “bureaucratic morass” (their words, not mine, but I’m so borrowing)? You don’t say. Big-government spending gets earmarked for the districts of influential politicians, not disaster areas? Go figure.
Back here in the States, we have the problem of politicking trumping the good of the country, and we also are a huge, diverse nation with different disaster relief issues. It can take days for disaster-relief equipment to cross the country (even on the interstate highways designed for the express purpose of moving military equipment in a time of peril), and regions have their own particular issues. New England and the Plains have great snow-removal equipment, but not much in the way of wild-fire fighting equipment.
What is the vision of these big-government types? That all of our equipment and personnel reside in Kansas, take two days to get where needed, and be subject to the approval of a red-tape ridden bureaucracy? That regions of the country who aren’t in favour with the powers-that-be wouldn’t get their disaster relief? Or it would take twice as long and be done much worse than at the state level? That we train people to do ten jobs badly instead of one or two jobs well? That the Red Cross step aside and people can pay more taxes if the charitable need strikes?