Disaster Response and Federalism

The title of a New York Times editorial claims that “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.” The Times’ implies that when confronted with a major natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, Americans would be screwed if they didn’t have bureaucrats from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to “to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.”

(Gee, I had no idea that it was government planners who directed my local Wegmans to ramp up shipments of bottled water to meet the demand of people rushing to stock up on H2O.)

One would think that the Times’ might have been more restrained in casting as our savior the same outfit that responded to Hurricane Katrina with trailers contaminated with formaldehyde. Nope. According to the Times, it’s crazy to think that the “financially strapped states” could handle disaster relief. “Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid?” the Times asks. “Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages.”

Why shouldn’t the states be responsible for paying for disaster response? The last time I checked, the federal government was also financially strapped. Regardless of which level of government assumes the responsibility of paying for it, the money ultimately comes from taxpayers. Under the current arrangement, taxpayers in, say, Arizona will pay for disaster recovery in Pennsylvania. Is it really more absurd to expect the citizens of Pennsylvania to pay for their own disaster response than people living in, say, the Rockies?

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President Obama’s Abuse of Executive Power

In an opinion article published October 10 in the Washington Post, political commentator George Will describes one of President Barack Obama’s latest “abuses of executive power.” Writes Will:

On Jan. 4, [President Obama] used recess appointments to fill three seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), even though the Senate said it was not in recess. Obama’s cheeky Humpty Dumpty rejoinder was: I decide what “recess” means.

Now a court must decide whether the Constitution means what it says.

In 2011, the Noel Canning company, which bottles soft drinks in Yakima, Wash., was negotiating a labor contract with Teamsters Local 760. The union says it and the company reached a verbal agreement. The company disagrees. An administrative law judge sided with the union. On Feb. 8, after Obama’s disputed appointments, the NLRB upheld that decision and asked a federal court to enforce it. Noel Canning is asking the court to declare that the NLRB’s intervention in the dispute was unlawful because the board lacked a quorum until Obama made the recess appointments, which were invalid because the Senate was not in recess.

In defense of his controversial and legally questionable appointments, President Obama insists that they were made in complete compliance with the Constitution’s grant of such power to the president in Article II.

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