John Stossel

As Paul put it, "Rich people get insurance subsidized by poor people, build on beaches. ... Their houses get washed away, and poor people pay to rebuild. ... It's a reason we're totally bankrupt."

Yes, it is. My house eventually washed away, and you paid. That's wrong.

Federal emergency management fails, too. After Hurricane Hugo, Sen. Ernest Hollins called FEMA "bureaucratic jackasses that should just get the hell out of the way."

So politicians promised they'd improve FEMA. But three years later, after Hurricane Andrew, Sen. Barbara Mikulski said, "Government's response to Andrew was seen by many hurricane victims as a disaster itself."

Again, the bureaucrats said they'd fix it. Then came Katrina. Almost 2,000 people died.

FEMA even got in the way of rescue efforts. Wal-Mart offered flood victims three trailer trucks filled with water. FEMA turned them away. It prevented the Coast Guard from delivering fuel. It shipped 91,000 tons of ice for Louisiana hurricane victims to Maine and Arizona.

FEMA got better reviews this month, but the jury is still out. Let's see what reporters reveal in the coming weeks. Even brilliant government bureaucracies become incompetent over time, because everyone must follow the mind-numbing rules.

Economist Steven Horwitz researched prior disasters and says, "Firms like Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Marriott and McDonald's were major forces for good in getting resources to people in very desperate times, (but) FEMA was an absolute disaster. FEMA did not get into New Orleans in some cases for a week or 10 days."

No one says Wal-Mart should replace local police and firefighters. But local assistance is better. And each Wal-Mart store manager knows his neighborhood's needs. "FEMA is situated in Washington," said Horwitz. "It does not understand as well the needs of local communities."


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate