Ultimately, no man is capable of doing anything in the face of the forces of nature that God sets in motion, but the failure to proactively and reactively handle this crisis, and therefore the responsibility for the consequences of that failure, must be placed first upon the individual, largely upon the local governments, less so upon the States, and only slightly upon the Federal Government.
The primary responsibility for ensuring health and safety lies with the individual. Given proper notification, each of us must take the necessary steps to ensure our own safety, that of our loved ones, and of our neighbors.
The individuals experiencing the greatest loss, that of life, must bear the greatest responsibility for choosing to remain despite ample notice of impending danger. Those experiencing an uninsured loss of property must stop and consider whether they could have perhaps made do with a few less channels on their television or a slightly less excellent stereo system in their car in order to have afforded insurance for their property. There are certainly those who rightly depend upon their local governments for assistance, but the vast majority have only their own foolishness to blame for their loss.
Those who had the resources, but not the initiative to make their hotel buses, church vans, rental car fleets, and thousands of unsold (and now unsellable) vehicles available to assist in evacuations must bear the responsibility for allowing their destitute neighbors to suffer and die. The major political players wouldn’t have call centers set up during this non-election season, but we also didn’t see Republican or Democratic call lists distributed to party offices across the country so they could “remind” us to flee the coming storm the way they “remind” us to vote for their candidates. Companies with out-of-state call centers who do business in the affected areas don’t have any problem contacting us to remind us to pay our bills; why didn’t we see them calling to save our lives?
The secondary responsibility lies with the local government (city and county/parish), upon whom falls the burden of protecting those unable to take the necessary precautions themselves. The destitute, infirm, and incompetent rely upon their local government to serve as their “good neighbor” in this type of situation.
The local governments grossly failed the people they serve. We see entire fleets of school buses and municipal buses sitting ruined in a sea of contaminated water that could instead have ferried those in need out of harms way. We didn’t see timely mandatory evacuations or municipal government vehicles driving through neighborhoods announcing the evacuation and taking note of those requiring assistance. We didn’t see telephone, utility, and other companies asked to contact their customers to encourage evacuation. The local governments had the responsibility, authority, and resources necessary in order to prevent a large number of casualties, and failed miserably.
The tertiary responsibility lies with the state government, and consists primarily of securing and coordinating resources from unaffected counties, making state resources available to the local governments, and providing leadership in the aftermath of a disaster when local leadership is overwhelmed and local resources are impacted. The state government is also responsible for requesting assistance directly from neighboring states and from the United States via the Federal Government.
With the lesser degree of responsibility comes a lesser degree of blame, but the State governments cannot escape criticism. The primary responsibility of the State governments in this type of situation is to provide direction and leadership in order to manage the delivery of resources when local agencies are devastated. That leadership has not been apparent.
The Federal Government has the responsibility of securing and coordinating resources from unaffected states, and making those resources directly in the service of the Federal Government available to the affected states.
My initial impression is that the Federal Government met and exceeded its charter in this case. By facilitating early warning of significant weather events, the Federal Government has provided for the common defense and promoted the general welfare of the people of these United States. Agencies of the Federal Government serving in the affected area add insuring domestic tranquility to the Federal Government’s resume in this situation.
But the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the levees, and Bush cut funding, so it’s Bush’s fault, right? Well. . . not really. We’ve been told since the 1850’s (Charles Ellet Jr.) that levees aren’t the right way to control flooding along the Mississippi. The current Democratic Senator complained that money for a current study had been trimmed and that they had so much money before (under a Republican Senator) that they didn’t know what to do with it. Cutting money for a study doesn’t cause a disaster today (although it may allow one in the future). The Corps of Engineers has repeatedly said that the current flood control system is designed to possibly withstand a Category 3 hurricane. A Category 5 is not just two steps up; we’re dealing with an exponentially increasing degree of damage. This is a gi-normous topic beyond the scope of this discussion, but there are two key problems here. The first is that we’ve hit the limits of what technology can do to keep an uninhabitable place overpopulated. The second is that the locals turned over responsibility for their own flood control to a Federal agency (and the Feds unwisely accepted it).
It is a sign of our rampant Socialist tendencies that individuals and local and state governments would look first to the Federal Government for instructions and resources and as a target for blame. If each level of responsible parties is so paralyzed by dependency that they cannot act appropriately, and those parties with a broader scope are not delivering the level of support expected then we must re-establish the actual and perceived balance of power and responsibility between the Federal and State governments and between the individual and our governments. There appear to be two ways to affect this change.
The first is to restructure our government such that the local and State governments are merely agencies of the Federal Government and individuals are subservient to, rather than served by, all levels of government. This would herald the end of the great American experiment and usher in the new Socialist States of America.
The second option is to wean ourselves from the teat of our governments, our local governments from that of the state, and the states from that of the Federal Government. This would restore our governments to a Constitutional model and encourage liberty, with all of the associated rights and responsibilities.
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