Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina and the Federal Government

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.

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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

As I pointed out in an earlier post, George Bush's Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan specifically states that the federal government does not have to wait for local and/or state requests for assistance in the event of a catastrophe (no mention of armed insurrection, and the NRP is for natural disasters as well as terrorism).

So, following your logic, Dubya advocates violating the constitution.

Additionally, you can parse responsibilities all you want, but when it came time for the federal government to act, even under the most conservative timelines, well our Dear Leader had someone in charge who literally knew more about a horse's ass than he did the job he was appointed to do.

Hey, at least now the American people know where their Republican presidential campaign contributions went- into some jerk's fundraising pool so he could claim to be a pioneer and get a cushy job, protecting the American people from the most devastating of disasters.

Oh, and the president isn't the only one to blame. Congress mucked up royally not giving this joker even the once over. See below

James Shott said...

What you have pointed out, and what I have been able to find don't jive. Nowhere have I found anything indicating that the federal government can unilatteraly decide to move into a disaster area. I have looked at the source you cited, but the authority isn't there. Perhaps you can furnish a link.

I'm still withholding judgement on Mike Brown/FEMA/federal government until more of the actual facts, as opposed to all the specutlation and blame shifting, are known.

You may be willing to condemn the Bush administration from the get-go, but I'm not. I don't deny that there is/may be some culpability on the feds part, but I think it's absolutely clear that the initial screwups came at the hands of the mayor and the governor. I don't see how anyone who's looking at this objectively can absolve the state and local failures, and transfer that responsibility to the federal government. Had the local and state authorities done their job, whatever the failure of the feds would have been relatively insignificant.

Anonymous said...

The link to the NRP is

Page 43 is where is says the fed gov can step in without requests from state and local. Whether that authority actually exists (is grounded in the constitution) is something I'd leave to the lawyers- I'm not saying it's there. But the Pres's DHS, his puppy, made this plan, and it's what they said was the solution.

I don't think state or local is absolved of blame at all. But just as you argue the "Democrats, liberals and other Bush haters just can’t wait for a fresh opportunity to bash their favorite villain", the right is in full blame the Dems mode. Check this jewel from FNC:

And I don't think you can back up your last sentence with anything but wishful thinking. Indeed, the fed's job is to be there if and when state and local fail.