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Ron Paul's federal disaster relief plan: Kill FEMA

August 31, 2011 |  3:14 pm

Ron Paul campaigns in Iowa 8-27-11

Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul is on his his third bid for the presidency.

A distinctive and refreshing trait of the libertarian's campaigns is that the retired doctor calmly provokes politicians and voters to talk about the political givens they otherwise would prefer to leave alone. Why is the Federal Reserve so powerful and secretive? What benefit do we really get out of foreign wars? Couldn't those billions be better spent at home?

Disturbing to some, who boo Paul at Republican debates.

But that's a healthy thing given the tendency of well-coiffed candidates to blather out their focus-grouped, well-rehearsed talking points at every opening. You don't get the impression that Ron Paul is ever saying what he thinks you want to hear, a sign of genuineness that attracts his devoted band of followers and sticks out in American politics, albeit often self-defeating

Also, honestly, Ron Paul's straight-faced ability to drive government-loving TV interviewers into incredulity is most entertaining.

The 76-year-old's latest willing victim is CNN's Anderson Cooper. And Paul's latest contribution ...

... to the 2012 election debate is his suggestion that the United States doesn't really need FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which so often hasn't lived up to its name.

It is, of course, very American to name storms like pets and pretend that a 400-mile-wide swath of 115-mph winds and rains can somehow be managed. Very foolish, but very American. Leave it to Paul to burst the popular bubble of omnipotent government via CNN Tuesday night.

You know, when we had Katrina going into New Orleans, they needed ice. So FEMA ordered ice from the Northeast. They ordered 211 million pounds of ice. It traveled for two weeks and they finally ended up in Nebraska. And they never got it. That's a typical way of how FEMA works.

Cooper said he reported extensively on Katrina and the incompetence of local officials, and that more people would have died without FEMA. "Well," Paul said, "that remains to be seen."FEMA Logo

Paul's argument, as usual, centers on the ineffectiveness of large, expensive government bureaucracies to do much except perpetuate themselves and be expensive. Paul added:

"You create more hazards by the government by saying, well, in government, you pay this and the government will be there. They'll always be there to take care of you and pay your bills while they're broke. They can't pay the bills."

Don't get the 11-term congressman started on government bureaucracies. But Cooper did:

The government will take care of us and we're broke and we're in the midst of this economic crisis, which will get a lot worse and not be concerned about it. Say, well, the people need it. Well, I mean from the start of FEMA being involved and taking control, and taking over this management, they aren't very efficient. They're very inefficient....

They would have been better of in Katrina if they had just written a check to everybody and not gotten involved in all the mess. They handed checks to people who didn't even live there. I don't know how anybody could defend the inefficiency of what went on in Katrina.

It really hasn't changed. It is part of the Department of Homeland Security. All you have to do is look at the TSA, that's another favorite bureaucracy that American people don't like.

At that point, Cooper wisely surrendered: "Yes. Congressman Ron Paul, appreciate your time, as always. Thank you, sir."

In the 2007-08 presidential election cycle, Paul, who raised more money than that Arkansas preacher who wrote books about weight loss and got way more media coverage, was even banned from some presidential debates because he was so far out there.

In 2008, Paul was inveighing about such ridiculous things as the exploding national debt and the imperative of cutting government spending because the country couldn't afford itself. 

Now, it's 2011 and -- look -- Paul's agenda is the nation's political agenda. He's not barred from debates anymore. In fact, the next GOP set-to is Sept. 7 at the Reagan Library.

President Obama is so worried about what might come out there, he's trying to schedule a competing address to Congress that same evening as a media distraction. Whenever he speaks, Obama will offer more good talk -- what is this, No. 6 this year? -- about the need for Congress to create jobs by spending only a few dozen more billions of dollars.

Paul will be at that debate. So will the new GOP front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Which would you be more likely to watch?


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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Ron Paul campaigns in Iowa. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press