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Commenting on the federal response to Hurricane Irene, New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote Aug. 30, 2011 that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s scorn of government is "so great that he doesn’t even want it to coordinate (relief) in natural disasters."
Dowd’s column says next that the Texas congressman insisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, "which (Paul) calls ‘a giant contributor to deficit financing,’ should be shut down."
Paul has long advocated less dependence on government. But does he want to fold FEMA, the agency entrusted with coordinating disaster response?
Some background: President Jimmy Carter created FEMA through a 1979 executive order merging disaster-aid agencies across the government. Yet the agency says federal involvement in disaster relief began with an 1803 law enabling federal aid to a New Hampshire town after a fire. "In the century that followed," FEMA says, "ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters."
After asking Paul’s campaign about his FEMA position, we found a CNN transcript of a May 13, 2011, interview of Paul by the network’s Wolf Blitzer, who asked if Paul wants to see the agency ended. Paul replied: "Well, if you want to live in a free society, if you want to pay attention to the Constitution, why not? I think it's bad economics. I think it's bad morality. And it's bad constitutional law."
Paul continued: "Why should people like myself, who had, not too long ago, a house on the Gulf Coast and it's — it's expensive there, it's risky and it's dangerous. Why should somebody from the central part of the United States rebuild my house? Why shouldn't I have to buy my own insurance and protect about the potential danger?
"Well, the reason we don't have market insurance is it's too expensive. Well, why is it expensive? Because it's dangerous. Well, so why should — why should we take money from somebody else who (doesn’t) get the chance to live on the Gulf and make them pay to rebuild my house?"
"I mean it's — it's a moral hazard to say that government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things. I'm trying to get people to not do dumb things. Besides, it's not authorized in the Constitution."
More recently, according to MSNBC, Paul said in New Hampshire on Aug. 26, 2011 that "there’s no magic about FEMA," adding that it’s a "great contributor to deficit financing and quite frankly they don't have a penny in the bank. We should be coordinated but coordinated voluntarily with the states. A state can decide. We don't need somebody in Washington," the network quoted Paul saying.
On Aug. 28, 2011, Paul spoke again about FEMA. According to video posted by Fox News, "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace asked if Paul would do away with the agency and the things it was doing to help Americans faced with Hurricane Irene. Paul then described FEMA as inept in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, though he indicated he’s not inclined to shutter the agency immediately. "No, you don’t get rid of something like that in one day," Paul said.
On Aug. 30, 2011, CNN’s Anderson Cooper prefaced a Paul interview by saying if elected president, Paul has said he’d do away with FEMA. Cooper shortly asked Paul: "So you say we don't need FEMA. Why?" Paul replied that "they don't have a very good record. I mean, these natural disasters are very, very dangerous, so I don’t understand why we’d turn it over to a federal bureaucracy. Federal bureaucracies as a whole don’t do a very good job, but FEMA has the worst reputation of almost any of them." He also said that the government should "look at how things were handled before we had FEMA." Later in the interview, Paul said the federal government should be available for disaster-related rescues.
Paul’s campaign didn’t respond to our inquiry. We rate Dowd’s statement True.
CNN, interviews of Ron Paul, "Rep. Ron Paul on FEMA's natural disaster response," May 13, 2011; "Ron Paul and FEMA," August 30, 2011
Maureen Dowd, oped column, "What Price Life?," The New York Times, posted online Aug. 30, 2011
Fox News Channel, news article, "Ron Paul: FEMA Is the Real Disaster," August 28, 2011
MSNBC, news article, "Ron Paul: No FEMA response necessary," August 26, 2011
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