Category Archives: FEMA

Demolition Days On End

The television talking heads are talking about today’s sound and fury from the White House as “Demolition Day;” as if every day the mullet-maned moron occupying the Oval Office hasn’t been doing this from day one.

What is buttressing my sanity for the moment is the fact that MMM had a 49.4% approval rating in Nevada as of January 2017 (38.9% disapproval) and dropped to an approval rating of 43.6% in September 2017 and a disapproval rating of 51.2% in the Silver State.  [CNBC]

Much more love from the Republican Congress and the President and Nevada’s going to find itself in a world of hurt.   Case in point:  If the Republicans get their way in the FY 2018 budget 56,044 Nevada families will lose food assistance as of 2023, and 52,613 will lose them as of 2027.   But wait, there’s even more fun … another grand idea in this budget fiasco is to shift $100 billion of SNAP costs to the states.  So, Nevada would have to come up with 10% of the costs by 2020 and this increases to 25% in 2023 and beyond. Just in case lower income, mostly working, families in Nevada aren’t punished enough the GOP plan says states will have more “flexibility” to cut benefit levels to “manage costs.”  Of course Nevada will have to figure out how to get lower income working families basic food items at the local groceries, at state expense.  In case someone’s thinking this makes economic sense (that tired old canard about welfare queens on food stamps with waste and fraud) the actual numbers indicate that for every $5.00 spent on food stamps $9.00 is generated in economic activity. [CBPP] [MJ]

Case in point: The FY 2018 budget calls for cuts in fire-fighting operations.  As if the fires in California weren’t headline news at the moment.  The IAFC isn’t happy  seeing an FY 2017 budget of $2,833,000 for wildland fire management cut to $2,495,058 in FY 2018; or cuts to State Fire Assistance from $78 million down to $69.4 million, and Volunteer Fire Assistance from $15 million to $11.6 million.  And, by the way, the FLAME program (pdf) funding (wildfire reserve suppression fund, large fires) would be eliminated in the GOP budget.  Supposedly, the FY 2018 would sustain current 10 year average costs for fire suppression. [ECO]  The word “supposedly” is used with some caution, because as we experience climate change effects, the cost of fire suppression can be reasonably expected to increase, with a coterminous effect on budgets.   Meanwhile, there’s the matter of expensive fires in Napa and Sonoma counties.

And, then there’s the not-so-small matter of FEMA:

“The president’s budget blueprint calls for FEMA’s budget for state and local grants to be cut by $667 million, saying that these grants are unauthorized or ineffective. The program it explicitly calls out as lacking congressional authorization is the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, and a second proposed change would require all preparedness grants to be matched in part by non-federal funds. All of FEMA’s pre-disaster grants are meant to reduce federal spending after disasters, and according to the agency’s website, there’s evidence that $1 in mitigation spending saves $4 in later damages.”  [Newsweek]

There are two points to highlight in this paragraph.  First, the budget cuts are made to grants for disaster mitigation efforts, without saying why the grants are “ineffective,” and we should note that any program can be declared “ineffective” if the standards aren’t reasonable. Secondly, as in the case of food stamps, there’s an upfront economic benefit — for every $1 spent on mitigation we save $4 in subsequent damage costs.   Once more we have a grand example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Nor are the Republicans keeping their promises not to mess with Social Security and Medicare.

“Not only would it (the FY 2018 budget) cut Medicaid by $1 trillion, it would also cut Medicare by more than $470 billion in order to pay for hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America. Further, the Republican tax plan this budget calls for would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which will likely pave the way for savage cuts to Social  Security.”  [SenDem]

Oh, and by the way… let’s sabotage the NAFTA talks, scrap the only treaty containing Iran’s arms aspirations (and tick off all the other European allies who signed on), send a signal to North Korea that our word’s not worth paper on which it’s written, let the health insurance market destabilize into chaos, and withdraw from UNESCO.

And here we sit, not a shining beacon on a hill, but a flickering flame bent to whatever winds happen to be blowing through the head of MMM in the White House.  Not only are programs and services in peril within our own state, but the nation and the world are facing similar dangers emanating from an unraveling White House.

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Filed under Economy, FEMA, Health Care, health insurance, Nevada, Nevada budget, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Social Security, tax revenue, Taxation

Compounding A Disaster

There’s a place for ideology in the spectrum of political thought.  However, it’s NOT in the midst of a disaster zone.   There are people in Middlesex County, NJ who will be waiting for electricity until next Monday; friends called about an hour ago — they are OK, and counting themselves lucky the storm damage didn’t take out more than just the railings on their deck.  There are people around this part of the country who are looking at the brown and blackened remains of range fires which consumed more than a half million acres in the region in August.  We’ve something in common.  Disaster management is not best organized on the local level.   Nothing so well wipes out mythology than wind, water, and fire.

# Myth Number One:  Local government is best able to manage disasters. Wrong.  (1) Local disaster relief assets, including local government operations like the sheriff’s department, police officers, and fire departments are staffed and equipped to handle local emergencies.  A fire such as the Holloway blaze which consumed some 461,000 acres, including vast  acreage  in Humboldt County, Nevada was completely beyond the capacity of local volunteer fire departments to manage.  Nor should we imagine that the law enforcement and public safety officials in Middlesex County, New Jersey are able to cope with all the needs in their country associated with coping with the damage from Hurricane Sandy.

It should also be noted that local disaster management can only be accomplished IF the assets aren’t themselves subject to the disaster.  It doesn’t take too long a junket down memory lane to recall the situations in which the local police and fire departments found themselves during Hurricane Katrina and the related flooding.

On the best days, local disaster management and assets are part of the total response, but the idea that a local sheriff’s department or local firefighting department could “manage” all the communication, logistic, and personnel  involved in a major catastrophe is pure fantasy.  What would we think of a local Emergency Management division telling FEMA officials where to pre-position equipment and supplies?  Surely the decisions are made with local input, but having New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island all “determining” the positioning of assets and supplies is asking for chaos and not coordination in advance of Sandy’s landfall.

(2) States may coordinate some public safety needs but the idea that situations the magnitude of the Holloway Fire or Hurricane Sandy can be addressed by state and local officials is ludicrous.  (a)   Again, consider the potential for mis-allocation of resources if all the states involved in Hurricane Sandy’s path were to position them on their own, and not in coordination with their neighbors.  (b) Consider the problem of determining which state would share what with whom? And, when? (c) Consider the question of how to coordinate disaster management and relief operation if states not immediately involved are not subject to federal management plans?  FEMA can authorize the pre-clearance of power company resources for use in restoring electricity to areas affected by disasters.  Power crews from around the country will be available to the East Coast — compliments of federal coordination. Similarly, fire crews from at least five western states were available to fight the Holloway Fire — and they were ready thanks to planning by the National Interagency Fire Center which does long term forecasts and had already determined that northern Nevada, because of weather, natural vegetation growth, and drought conditions was ripe for major fires.

# Myth Number Two:  Localizing or privatizing emergency management is always better than federal government interference.  Wrong.   The “private is always better” component of the conservative ideology is a lovely ethereal academic argument.  It doesn’t work when the wind hits the beach or the fire touches dry brush.   If capitalism works, and the profit motive is the core of personal incentive toward productivity — then where is the profit in coping with emergency shelters? Firefighting? Distribution of drinking water? Patrolling devastated areas?  Coordinating the restoration of power?

There is a profit to be made if individuals are to be charged for the cost of the emergency management services.  Unthinkable.  Or, there is a profit to be made if the costs of providing these services are billed to state and local governments.  Why pay any amount above the actual cost of the services?

All that is accomplished in a billing for services system is that the taxpayers are called upon to pay not only for the emergency management services provided but also a margin of profit for the companies providing those services.  This seems like a most cynical form of corporate welfare.

And all this is why Governor Romney’s proposal to cut disaster relief is so horribly out of touch:

“We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.” [BusInsid]

He was talking about disaster relief.  He is touching upon Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) notion that any disaster relief appropriations should be offset by cuts in other non-defense discretionary spending.  It would be sad if it weren’t so silly.

For a party which continually tries to frame revenue and spending in terms of a family budget this doesn’t pass the laugh test.  According to the conservative ideology, families are supposed to plan and save for exigent circumstances.  However, when a government plans for and appropriates funding for disaster relief that’s somehow wasteful?

There’s nothing immoral about planning for natural disasters and their consequences, but there is something immoral about suggesting that it is not the place of our national government to offer protection and provide the necessities of life to our fellow citizens in times like these.

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Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, Disasters, FEMA, Republicans, Romney

Hurricane Willard: Updated

June 2011

“During a CNN debate at the height of the GOP primary, Mitt Romney was asked, in the context of the Joplin disaster and FEMA’s cash crunch, whether the agency should be shuttered so that states can individually take over responsibility for disaster response.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

There’s video of this:

May 2012

“House Republican appropriators on Tuesday revealed that they have decided to ignore GOP budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the controversial issue of disaster relief, spending over the discretionary levels set in the 2013 budget.  Ryan’s Budget Committee, in nonbinding report language attached to the House-passed 2013 budget, called for all disaster relief to “be fully offset within the discretionary levels provided in this resolution.” [The Hill]

October 2012

Ron Bonjean, GOP Strategist: “Most people don’t have a positive impression of FEMA and I think Mitt Romney was right on the button. But I don’t think anybody cares about that right now. I think people care about whether or not their power’s on, whether or not their basement’s going to be flooded. And I think that if the president gets too far in front of this and something goes wrong, people are going to remember, hey, my power’s not out, and the president’s talking about FEMA. I’m not a real big fan of FEMA. That could sway their vote.”

The Romney campaign issued this ‘clarification’ ahead of Sandy’s landfall:

“Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters.” [Stir]

Remember the Romney-Ryan budget proposal calls for 20% cuts across the board in non-defense discretionary spending.  Their previously issued statements also call for transforming emergency funds into Block Grants for states.  So, whatever disaster strikes the ‘resources and assistance’ would come from the state — not federal resources.   The state of Louisiana would have had to pick up the bill for Hurricane Katrina from its ‘block grant.’  The state of Missouri would have been responsible for paying all emergency services bills associated with the Joplin/SW area tornadoes.  Western states would have to pay for emergency services during wild land fires from their ‘block grants.’

UPDATE: Oh my, the political winds must be shifting because the Romney campaign is out with yet another clarification:

“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” [Politico]

Now he doesn’t want to eliminate FEMA, he simply wants the states to take over — with, one should assume, those block grant funds.

Whose Disaster?

No one has quite managed to clarify how the funds for these block grants would be distributed?  Does Florida get more because it is prone to hurricane devastation?  Does the money sent to Florida mean that less could be sent to Connecticut in the wake of  Nor’easters?  Does money sent to Connecticut and Florida mean there is less available for California in the event of an earthquake?  Does money allocated for Florida, Connecticut and California mean less money in the pot for Indiana and Illinois tornado disaster relief? How much money would we need to assist with emergency services during a Minnesota or North Dakota blizzard?

Governor Romney began his 2011 remarks by saying that the federal government should send as much as possible “back to the states,” and sending it back to the private sector would be even better.

When asked directly about disaster relief he said:

“We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.” [Slate]

Yes, “think of the children…” We are thinking of children.  Children made temporarily homeless by fires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and their parents aren’t thinking of the ‘national debt’ … they are seeking relief.  As immediately as possible, from a government which  pledges in its Constitution  to promote their general welfare.

So, Governor Romney and Rep. Ryan would remove this pledge and replace it with block grants, the rationale for awards thereof remaining unclear, and with the amounts cut by 20%, to be allocated to states which may or may not need emergency funds immediately, and this is supposed to benefit whom?

Answer: The millionaires and billionaires who don’t want their taxes to be increased from 35% to 39.6%?

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Filed under 2012 election, Disasters, FEMA, Politics, Romney

Tone Deaf? HAC cuts Firefighter, FEMA funding

The House Appropriations Committee chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) has voted to cut $1.5 billion from the Obama Administration’s request for firefighter assistance grants and local and state grants administered by FEMA.   Rogers’s rationale:  “In today’s environment,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), according to CQ, “we can’t be subsidizing local governments to the extent we have.” [TP]  This would be the same Representative Rogers whose district benefited from a federal disaster declaration on May 11, 2011 because of catastrophic flooding. [WSAZ]

And, this would be while FEMA is funding 25 fire management grants to assist Texas firefighters deal with wildland fires,   [list here] covering about 75% of the total cost.  While FEMA has operations ongoing in Alabama, including assistance to local home and business owners trying to remove debris from their properties. [AL.com] And, while FEMA found it necessary to open a second Recovery Center in Joplin, Missouri. [OzFirst]  Nor should we forget that about 1,500 people in Sedalia, Missouri were spared because of public shelters.  “The $3 million project to build public storm shelters was controversial. Seventy-five percent of the cost was paid for with a FEMA grant, and the rest was the county’s responsibility. The presiding commissioner at the time, Rusty Kahrs, took a lot of heat from some who thought the money could be used for other city expenses.”  [KCTV]

“In today’s environment” in the world according to the Republican Party incumbents in the House of Representatives, it is acceptable to opposed the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts for the ultra-wealthy, but unacceptable to fund local first responders and public storm shelters.  It is acceptable to defend taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil, but not acceptable to fund disaster relief for communities in peril.  It is acceptable to promote the shifting of tax liability from the shoulders of Wall Street speculators to the backs of American middle and working class people, but unacceptable to fund disaster clean up activities for local citizens who all too often can’t afford the kind of insurance that would restore their property, and help them rebuild their lives.

Perhaps the wording on the glass should read:  In case of emergency, vote Democratic.

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Filed under Appropriations, Federal budget, FEMA

>Roadblock Republicans: Ensign backtracking? Vitter, Bennett Hold

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Whatever Senator John Ensign’s (R-NV) concern might have been for the Armenians, it seems to have dissipated rapidly. Last month Nevada’s junior Senator was holding up the confirmation of Philip Gordon in the State Department, ostensibly to make a point about the Armenian Genocide. The Greek News is now reporting that Gordon’s confirmation is expected to reach the Senate floor very soon.

Senator David Vitter (R-NV) may still be holding up the confirmation of Craig Fugate to direct FEMA. [NYT] Vitter says he’s holding up the confirmation because he wants answers from FEMA about denying assistance to projects in Grand Isle, LA. [Ind] Recent reports from the area indicate that several projects are already finished – Grand Isle State Park reopened to the public on May 3rd . [Advo] Damage from hurricanes Ike and Gustav closed the park temporarily, but locals are now touting the deep sea salt water fishing and the B&B rentals. [Advo] At one point the mayor of Grand Isle was told he could not build a gym – to which he is reported to have responded, “How could he run a community without services?” [LRA.la.pdf] The state of Louisiana appears ready to fund the rebuilding of the local library. [TDC] There are, however, some proposed 4,000 project worksheets remaining, of which FEMA reported only 35 in dispute. Another bone of contention is the rebuilding of Charity Hospital in New Orleans; FEMA is offering to fund $129 million which local officials feel is insufficient. [LRA.la.pdf] Somehow, disputes over 35 projects, a gymnasium, and who will fund the rebuilding of Charity, might pale in comparison to having FEMA leaderless with three weeks to go before hurricane season?

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) gives every appearance of having put retaliatory holds on the confirmation of two Interior Department nominees because of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decisions regarding 77 oil and gas leases he shelved after a federal judge halted progress on a disputed December 19, 2008 auction. [SLT] Bennett has holds on David Hayes, nominated as assistant secretary, and Hilary Tompkins, the nominee to be solicitor for the Interior Department.

Senators Ensign and Vitter have 100% votes in favor of sustaining filibusters in the Senate, Senator Bennett maintains a 33% rating. Perhaps his hold on the two Interior Department nominees will redeem his low ranking and increase his popularity with GOP spokesperson Rush Limbaugh? [Filibusters]

desertbeacon.blogspot.com

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Filed under Ensign, FEMA, filibuster, Interior Department