This week, Ron Paul said he doesn't see a need for federal assistance in responding to Hurricane Irene. He wants to abolish FEMA. He said, "We should be like 1900, we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960."
Well, here's the thing, Congressman. The federal government was assisting states with natural disasters way back in 1900, 1940, 1950 and 1960.
FEMA was established in 1978, but there wasn't really anything new about what it did. It was simply a way of organizing emergency relief services that had been spread out under several different departments. FEMA was created to organize those services and provide assistance in a more timely way. Rather than waiting for Congress to pass a separate bill to pay for each major hurricane or tornado or forest fire, FEMA was given a budget to work with.
By suggesting we should go back to the way things were done in the olden days, all Ron Paul's really saying is that we should go back to the haphazard approach of the past that was inadequate and inefficient.
But that's not what he thinks he's saying. He thinks smashing FEMA will shrink the federal budget. It won't. Do you think there's one single congressman or senator or governor who's going to stand by quietly when their state needs help?
Sure, Eric Cantor was full of bluster about no disaster relief without dollar-for-dollar cuts in other areas of the budget. But as soon as Irene's done with Virginia, he'll be right at the front of the pack with his greedy hands outstretched, grabbing for his share of the FEMA pot. And he's not going to volunteer to give up one penny of the normal federal funds that Virginia, like every other state, depends on.
Ron Paul may seem like a straight talker who's sincerely committed to the principles he preaches. But he was intellectually dishonest - or badly misinformed - when he said we could cut the federal deficit by getting rid of FEMA and going back to the way things used to be done. He might portray himself as Don Quixote jousting at windmills but he's really the Wizard of Oz saying "Pay no attention to what's behind the curtain."
That's why I've chosen Congressman Ron Paul, erstwhile presidential wannabe from Texas, as my Scum of the Week.