This fall’s hurricane damage is severe. What should the federal government do? This massive rebuilding effort will end up being one of the biggest ever. We’ll be seeking resources from the Congress, to make sure that disaster relief is available. Politicians from the areas that were hit always say, give us lots of money! We do need and will need federal resources. Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee wants about $150 billion — just for Texas. So far, Congress has agreed to a portion of that. Of course, only the federal government can send in the military and other first responders. After Irma, 13,000 National Guard soldiers helped rescue and evacuate people. This the kind of emergency response we expect from the federal government. But rebuilding afterward? Why is that the federal government’s responsibility? We’re going to have to restore a lot of
housing. Our infrastructure has to be restored. Yes, but why is that a federal job? Washington has no money of its own. Anything it spends is taken from states and local governments, from people who would probably have been smarter about spending it locally. This idea that it’s always the federal government’s responsibility is new, until recently businesses and charities handled most disaster response. In 1906, the massive San Francisco earthquake and fire that followed destroyed 80 percent of San Francisco. Despite this vast amount of destruction, the city was rebuilt quickly. Population recovered to pre-quake levels within just three years. This happened because rebuilding was done by residents, charities, and businesses, not by a bureaucratic government. The disaster even created some opportunities. All San Francisco’s banks were destroyed, But one banking entrepreneur reopened quickly, giving loans to all sorts of people who needed help. His bank grew to be the Bank of America. Seven years later, the Midwest was hit with a huge storm now called the “Great Easter Flood.” Eleven states flooded. Rising water and tornadoes killed 600 people. The federal government did very little. But businesses stepped in. The National Cash Register Company built 300 boats to rescue flood victims, and then provided meals and shelter for thousands of people. The role of businesses after disasters is seldom appreciated. Yes, they want to make a profit. But they also want to help neighbors, and they want a good reputation. Giving out water and ice. After recent hurricanes, big box stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart were quick to bring in, fresh water, batteries, and food. In Puerto Rico, Coca Cola donated $1 million Pepsi Co, $2 million Elon Musk offers to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electricity grid. Researchers found that after Hurricane Katrina, business and charities provided much more help than FEMA did. A few years ago, Oklahoma took a big hit. For three days tornadoes tore through the state. FEMA spent lots of money to help rebuild but even NBC’s anchors noticed that private charities did a better job If you’re waiting for the government, you’re going to be in for an awful long wait. The Baptist men, they’re going to get it done tomorrow. The Baptist men got bulldozers and cleared tornado debris from more than a thousand homes. They brought in Bobcats and bulldozers and chainsaws and they just went to work. Within days, the Baptists gave them a new home. It was a mess out here, and they cleaned it up. And they’ve done that for our whole neighborhood. All the sudden we hear hammering and Maddie looks back and she grabs my shoulder and I look up, and they’re already on our roof. You have people driving though handing you meals. People I didn’t know, would just walk up and give us money it’s just overwhelming to me that we were that taken care of. For 200 years when disasters hit, neighbors took care of neighbors. But now we hear, “a big storm requires big government.” I say, the head of the Baptist charity has it right. I don’t think there’s any kind of disaster that can take place that the non-profit and faith-based groups cannot take care of.