Government Failure

I’d post all the ways that government failed New Orleans and Louisiana and Mississippi, but this post on Sploid does so quite well and points out the key insight: the consept of “Homeland Security” over “Civil Defense” has been an unmitigated failure.

Instead of trying to catch every perp who might want to bomb us, we could have prepared for city-destroying-level disasters, hardened the targets, and enabled more robust responses instead of giving privacy-destroying toys to every podunk sherrif’s department in the country who wanted to spy on and beat up blacks, gays, and pot smokers.

The only thing sploid doesn’t cover is the fact that local government in New Orleans and Louisiana could have been prioritizing levees and disaster planning even if the federal government wasn’t there with funds. They could have ignored the federal government’s failure to act in the aftermath. They could have planned for evacuuating the superdome immediately after the storm or getting supplies to it.

2 thoughts on “Government Failure

  1. The disaster in New Orleans was not a “government failure” — it was the result of incompetence and malfeasance by specific people in positions of power in government.

    Putting the blame on a faceless “government” boogeyman lets them off the hook for their inability to do their jobs. “Government” is only as good or bad as the people who make it up.

    And what’s the alternative? Should we leave disaster response to the free market? The free market response to disasters already exists, it’s called “insurance” — and it’s cold comfort to people who’d rather get some protection before they’re dead instead of having their families compensated afterwards.

    “The only thing sploid doesn’t cover is the fact that local government in New Orleans and Louisiana could have been prioritizing levees and disaster planning even if the federal government wasn’t there with funds.”

    Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the Union. They had to pinch and scrape in this year’s budget just to keep the schools running and the roads open. And they’re supposed to take over for FEMA?

    To illustrate, look at the budget figures. The DHS budget for FY 2006 totaled $41.1 billion. Of that, $5.4 billion was budgeted for FEMA. (FEMA’s budget has been steadily declining ever since it was absorbed into DHS.)

    For comparison, the _entire state budget_ for Louisiana for FY 2006 was just a hair over $7 billion. Of that, only $6.5 *million* was budgeted for the Department of Public Safety, which includes “first responders” like state police and fire personnel.

    (And as paltry as that is, their public safety department is one of the few that actually got a budget increase this year — Louisiana operates under a balanced-budget requirement, so they had to swallow some pretty hard cuts, like 24% cutback in veterans’ services.)

    Some problems are too big to be solved with $6 million. That’s why we have a Federal disaster-response agency. If it’s up to each state to fend for itself, the only result will be that poor states (like, say, Louisiana) will generate a lot of unnecessary corpses in disasters to come.

    Sources:

    * DHS budget: http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/Budget_BIB-FY2006.pdf

    * LA budget: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/OPB/pub/FY06/ExecutiveBudget/StatewideSummary.pdf

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  2. Yeah, actually, the free market worked better than the government in this instance. The free market includes charities and private security firms, too. The government BLOCKED PRIVATE CHARITIES FROM DOING ANYTHING.

    How many people had to be incompetent for this to happen? Do you really think, after living in the DC area this long, that everybody here is just a drooling moron? No, they’re in a system that does not reward foresight and rational planning. They. Don’t. Have. Incentives. And altruism has failed for…the entire history of this country. But I’m sure *next election*, it’ll be right and every government bureaucrat will not come in at 9, claim they came in at 6, and leave at 3, then take a compressed schedule. Sure.

    The government had decades to prepare for this. The political process, from Johnson and Rayburn to Shrub and Hastert, failed to produce anybody to build the levees higher.

    We had warnings of this specific issue. The Red Cross managed to get its shelters out of there, citing the threat. They were planning. Why couldn’t the government?

    Don’t give me the “good government” crap. If you can’t consistently elect even competent government, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the system. And if you can’t fix it, give resonsibility to those who can do the fucking job–and by that I do in fact mean the markets and private charity. The market, left to its own devices, would not have insured anybody who built below sea level. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a government to raze a major city.

    Oh, and that market thing?

    Beat government again:

    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/09/blackwater_in_n.html

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