Mike Needham

As with most fights in Washington, the question over whether or not to offset the spending is only the tip of the iceberg.  The real question is what should be the appropriate role of the federal government in disaster response and relief.

FEMA has been growing rapidly since 1993. Before that, the federal government was certainly involved in disaster relief, but states were primarily responsible for handling their own affairs when it came to natural disasters. But now, states are less and less responsible for hardships they face, especially from a financial standpoint.

That is not to say the federal government doesn’t have a support role; it does when disasters are so severe and widespread that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the states affected.  Recently, however, we’ve begun to see an over-federalization of disaster response.

Not only that, but according to The Heritage Foundation the number of federally declared disasters has been on the rise since 1993.  Just two-and-a-half years into his presidency, President Obama issued 375 declarations. 

How does that measure up historically?  Well, it is more declarations than President Dwight Eisenhower’s in two terms (106), President Richard Nixon’s in two terms (212), and President Ronald Reagan’s in two terms (225). President Obama is even outpacing Presidents Clinton and Bush on an annual basis.

For those counting along at home, that is one declaration every 2.48 days.  If every two and a half days there’s a new federal disaster that means that something very, very bad is coming Wednesday, and sometime Friday night. With President Obama declaring a natural disaster every couple of days, it should be no surprise the disaster relief fund is running dry.

Conservatives must stand strong on offsetting additional spending, even when up against something as politically difficult as disaster relief.  More fundamentally, the entire system needs to be reformed so that states will stop calling on the federal government and start recognizing the risks of their geography and plan accordingly.


Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.