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Anderson Cooper: … national hurricane center, Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA; the federal response to Irene has been massive, just as it is in every big natural disaster. But what if it weren’t that way? My next guest has some ideas on that and they’ve been causing lot of talk and controversy. Congressman Ron Paul says if elected president, he’d do away with FEMA.
Ron Paul: FEMA is not a good friend of most people in Texas because all they do is come in and tell you what to do and you can’t do; you can’t get in your houses. And they hinder the local people and they hinder volunteers from going in so there’s no magic about FEMA and more people are starting to recognize that because they are a great contributor to deficit financing, and quite frankly they don’t have a penny in the bank.
Anderson Cooper: Congressman Ron Paul, presidential candidate Ron Paul joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us, sir. So you say we don’t need FEMA. Why?
Ron Paul: Well, we’ve only had it since 1979 and they don’t have a very good record. These natural disasters are very, very dangerous, though I don’t understand why we turn it over to a federal bureaucracy. Federal bureaucracies, as a whole, don’t do a very good job, but FEMA has the worst reputation of almost any of them. And I live on the Gulf Coast and I’ve had the same position all the time. We’ve had hurricanes and disasters, and I get so many calls, I have had more calls on FEMA, being upset with FEMA, than all the other agencies put together. When we had Katrina going into New Orleans, they needed ice, so FEMA ordered ice from the North East and they ordered 211 million pounds of ice. It travelled for 2 weeks and it finally ended up in Nebraska and they never got it. But that’s a typical way of how FEMA works. So if you want to efficiency, why don’t we look at how things were handled before we had FEMA. Now it’s the Department of Homeland Security, and they just don’t have … go ahead, I do have another bigger gripe, though.
Anderson Cooper: But let me just say, look, I reported extensively on the failings of FEMA on Katrina: the trailers, the ice. But they also had body recovery teams on the ground very quickly before other people, and that was a FEMA response. They do have expertise in some areas that some states don’t. If you had left everything up to Louisiana officials during Katrina, probably more people would have died.
Ron Paul: Well, that remains to be seen, there’s no proof of that.
Anderson Cooper: Because the Louisiana officials were certainly not up to the task.
Ron Paul: Well, the thing is you create moral hazard by the government by saying you say, “You pay this and the government will be there, they will always be there to take care of you and pay your bills”. But they’re broke, can’t pay their bills. But the worst part about it is an economy consequence of saying, “Well, I can’t afford my insurance”, and these are usually a lot of middle class people who have their beach houses, and they can’t get their insurance because it’s costly, so the government guarantees it. So they give a reason for people to do dumb things, they build in the places that the market says, “Don’t build here, it’s too dangerous”. And then there are floods and all these problems. And then when Katrina hit, some of the guard units around the country that could have been helpful, were over fighting wars in the Middle East. So it’s such a gross distortion. Things weren’t as bad as they pretended it would be before 1979 without FEMA, it wasn’t a disaster. Show me where there was a much worse care before FEMA, and I don’t think you can give me any of that indication.
Anderson Cooper: You talked about going back to the 1900s way before something like FEMA was around. But in Galveston, which I think is part of your district, there wasn’t a sea wall in Galveston before the storm and they needed to rebuild because locals there decided it was just too expensive for them to cover all of that on their own using local funds. And because they didn’t, 6000 people died in that storm. If FEMA were abolished, wouldn’t you be setting a stage for life or death decisions or gambles in poor areas of the country?
Ron Paul: Well, I pointed out in 1900 Galveston, which is in my district, they survived without FEMA and they did rebuild the city, and it was mostly local funds. There were probably some state funds in, and that’s when the sea wall wasn’t built.
Anderson Cooper: But there wasn’t a sea wall there because they had decided to gamble because it was too expensive. If you had a federal government who was involved wouldn’t that be …
Ron Paul: Anderson, wait a minute, the sea wall was build shortly thereafter, FEMA didn’t build the sea wall in 1979, that’s been around for a long, long time, we didn’t need FEMA to build it. And just think of the management of all the levies in the country, now they’re starting to study that even the levies on the river are probably making our floods much worse, the levies in New Orleans.
Anderson Cooper: So you’re saying there’s absolutely no role the federal government should play?
Ron Paul: Let me finish. They were all built by the federal government, and they failed, so the federal government had a lot of responsibility for the creation of the mess in New Orleans.
Anderson Cooper: So you don’t think there is any role for the federal government in disaster response, or do you?
Ron Paul: Rescue operations, I think so. And matter of fact, my approach I think was a very modest and reasonable approach when they came for funds even today or back when we got hit in Galveston. I said, “I’ll vote for the funds, but you got to cut. We’re broke, the economic condition in this country is dire, so you cut 2 billion dollars from overseas, put a billion dollars against the deficit, put a billion dollars into helping the people that we taught to be dependent on the federal government”. So I think that’s very reasonable. But to say, “Oh, it’s endless, the government will take care of us and we’re broke” and we’re in the midst of this economic crisis which is going to get a lot worse, and not be concerned about it and say, “Oh, the people need it”. Well, I mean, from the start of FEMA being involved in taking over levy control and taking over this management, they aren’t very efficient, they’re very inefficient. They give no big contracts, big corporations make a lot of money on this. They would have been better off in Katrina if they just would have just written a check to everybody and not gotten involved in all the mess that they did. They ended up sending checks to people that didn’t even live there. I know how anybody could defend the inefficiency of what went on with Katrina. And that really hasn’t changed, it’s part of the department of Homeland Security and all you have to do is look at the TSA; that’s another favorite bureaucracy that the America people don’t like, either.
Anderson Cooper: Congressman Ron Paul, I appreciate your time as always, thanks sir.