I doubt I disagree with you. I have lots of questions re FEMA. But there are a few different issues here. What gives FEMA its authority? How did it get so powerful? What is its actual mission? If it's disaster relief (technically to help states overwhelmed to deal with major disasters on their own), then why is it now under the DHS (in itself suspect) ~ and what the hell's up with FEMA camps? I read former director James Lee Witt's biography, and it very impressive, but as I recall, it focused on disaster relief and coordination of first responders along with charitable organizations. There were many inspiring examples of successful community efforts. Particularly given the fact that there can be regional disasters, I think there is value to having some sort of umbrella organization or network, although it's possibly something that could be organized within the National Governors Association. So, anyway, there are questions re its existence.
Secondly, given that we do have FEMA (and are paying for it, with an annual budget in the billions and with thousands of employees), there is the issue of whether it's at least doing a good job. From some other post I read this morning on the DP re Hurricane Sandy and a town in NJ, it would appear that it wasn't doing such a good job. Here in my area in NY I haven't heard of similar complaints. But our own volunteer fire department and the Salvation Army were there for residents providing shelter and food for days for those without homes or without power due to damaged transformers and downed power lines, i.e., short term assistance. I believe FEMA is primarily helping people a) who will not have power restored any time soon because of the damage to homes from flooding (finding them temporary housing) and/or b) who don't have the funds available for repairs and replacements that need to facilitated before power can be restored (helping them get loans).
So there's the issue of whether we should even have a government department functioning in the capacity they are; and also the issue of, given that we DO have FEMA, and we're paying for it, whether or not their employees are doing a good job. The first is a philosophical issue re the role of federal government; the second is an approval rating for how well they're doing their job given that we are currently paying them to serve in this area. There is much to debate. And as to how well they're doing, aside from the fact that communities were faced with different levels of devastation, I imagine that people would probably rate their experiences differently. It's hard to judge by just a few anecdotes that make the news (though you'd think that trained personnel at this time of year would come prepared to provide as basic a need as heat!, an issue for some in that one town).
I guess my own point was (sitting here in my home in three layers of clothing sipping hot tea trying to get warm), with all the VALID issues that exist regarding FEMA, I didn't understand a criticism over the fact that ad hoc office quarters temporarily housing bureaucrats (not those going door to door asking people if they had a need but office workers, probably processing loans) were affected by a nor'easter just like everyone else. I didn't find it symbolic of anything. I just found it petty.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir
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