Federal Relief Aid Is the New Entitlement

moneyRecently, the governors of New York and New Jersey sent a joint letter to Congressional leaders expressing their outrage that the “fiscal cliff” legislation did not include more than $50 billion in federal aid for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy. Although the federal aid is likely to be approved by mid-January, this minor delay was deemed an outrage by the two governors, who said: “When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night.”

In fact, the real American tradition has been to help neighbors recover through voluntary aid and private investment. Prior to about 1964, most Americans would have been dumbstruck at the attitude of politicians who think federal taxpayers “owe” them billions of dollars in relief. Apparently, federal disaster relief is now another entitlement program, along with Social Security, Medicaid, and food stamps.

Since I have friends and family living in Manhattan, I certainly feel for those whose homes have been destroyed by Sandy, and I’m willing to help financially if asked politely. But when elected officials start acting like spoiled teenagers and “demand” that I turn over part of my income for their constituents, I feel a lot less charitable.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Learn more at cascadepolicy.org.

  • Bob Clark

    Federal disaster monies should be saved beforehand instead of just borrowed and speciously printed/created by the federal government and the Federal Reserve. We’ve stimulated the economy enough already. But instead President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and now even Governor Chris Cristie lead the cause of fiscal irresponsibility and status, oversized government.

    The House GOP should offer a debt limit extension to just after Sequester takes hold in two months. Then, when Obama wants to change the sequester formula, he and Reid might have to actually prioritize spending instead of just continuing to spend it all. Usually in life we don’t get as Obama says, “all of the above.”

  • 3H

    Federal disaster relief, in one form or another, goes back to 1803. It’s not new, and it’s been done for the past 200 years. The difference is that it was largely an ad hoc process and has only become regularized in the past 50 years.

    Sadly, John Charles, people suffer in the present and have a need now. It’s not like buying a big screen TV. Would you make a drowning man ask you politely before throwing him a rope?

  • valley person

    Some projects are just a bit too large for a voluntary neighbor to neighbor effort. The aftermath of a major hurricane hitting the most populated part of the United states falls into that category.

    The frustration libertarians like Mr Charles must feel is that the reality of the modern world keeps intruding on their 19th century libertarian utopia.

  • David from Mill City

    There is not a part of our nation that is not subject to some sort of disaster with a recovery cost greater then the local resources can pay for. The Gulf Coast get hurricanes. The East Coast gets hurricanes, ice storms and blizzards, The Southwest gets droughts wild fires and dust storms. The Great Plains get tornados, blizzards and ice storms. Here on the West Coast we get wild fires, earthquakes and tidal waves. And every where gets major floods.

    What goes around comes around. Sometime in the next 50 years Oregon can expect an earthquake in the 10+ range. When it happens we too will need the help of the whole nation to recover.