Here’s a very simple history of the beginning of the United States of America.
When the colonists decided to break away from Mother England, it was for a reason. The colonies wanted to be out from under the heavy thumb of the British Crown. In establishing a new country, the Founders decided its government would be not a government of one, as was England, but a government of the many, the citizenry.
Each of the original colonies/states would remain somewhat independent in a shared sovereignty with the federal government, and the federal government would be limited in its role and relationship with the states. There were clearly defined duties for the federal government. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution sought to reinforce that concept. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Moving forward to present times, although the Congress and the Supreme Court have frequently and inappropriately trampled the states’ Tenth Amendment rights, there still is a prohibition against the federal government simply coming into a state and taking over, uninvited.
Because of these protections from the federal government, states are required to ask for federal help, except in the event of armed insurrection, in which case the federal government can move in a quell the trouble.
That situation did not exist when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. As bad as things were, with the punks and thugs killing a few people, raping a few others, looting and generally causing trouble, those difficulties did not constitute an insurrection, and therefore did not compel the federal government to take action. The response to Katrina was the responsibility first of the local government and its leaders to implement pre-storm plans and post-storm plans, and then of the state government and its leaders to respond. Third in line comes the federal government, but only when it is invited to participate by the governor of a state. At the point that one of the governors realized that state and local governments were in over their heads, then the governor could ask for federal assistance.
Some think that President Bush should have ignored the Constitutional separation between the states and the federal government, and rushed federal help into New Orleans without having been asked to do so. That would be exercising power the President does not have.
Many people say that the feds acted too slowly. Prior to receiving a request from a state, the fact that the federal government didn’t act was exactly the proper response. If the feds acted too slowly after a request for federal intervention, that is another matter entirely.
There will be plenty of time to sort all of this out after the situation in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi has been stabilized. In the meantime, everyone should just shut up.
Our society has become so dependent upon the federal government and so accepting of its increasing intrusions into our lives that there now is an expectation on the part of a frighteningly large segment of our population that the feds should fix all our problems. But that is not the way the system is supposed to work, and we’d better realize that before all states’ rights have been whittled away, and we will then be no better off than when we were 13 colonies, and no better off than other nations where there is much less individual freedom that here.