Fred Barnes to Katrina Victims: Drop Dead
Reported by Judy - August 30, 2005
Fred Barnes, who supports throwing endless amounts of taxpayers' money down the rat hole called the Iraq War, says the federal government should stop providing disaster aid to places like New Orleans when they suffer hurricane damage.
Barnes, speaking on "Special Report with Brit Hume" on Monday (August 29), said people who move into such areas should assume the risk themselves rather than expect help from Congress. He noted that earlier in the day he talked to a Republican offical who also noted that as the storm raged, "every half or hour or so, you know, there's another billion dollars, another billion dollars the federal government's gong to have to spend." Boy, would I like the name of that Republican!
Barnes said, "But my problem with it is that, in some of these areas, like a below- sea-level city like New Orleans, they're not -- they want the rest of us to insure their risk. As people who live on the San Andreas Fault in California, where they know there are going to be earthquakes, people who live along the Mississippi River in these low farmland areas ... near the river, the floodplains. They know they're going to flood. And when these things happen, they want the taxpayers all over the country to pay, and they do."
Barnes, Hume, Mort Kondracke, and Charles Krauthammer had the nerve to joke about the impropriety of discussing Barnes' callous suggestion as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans.
Barnes himself has a home in Florida. He bragged that "last year, when there were two hurricanes, and I got a new roof, I paid my part. My private insurance company paid the other part. The federal
government and taxpayers paid no part."
That, of course, is wrong. The insurance in coastal areas is subsidized by the federal government through a mechanism called the wind pool.
Where do you start on such with such a heartless beast? First of all, he could have noted that under President Clinton, FEMA made real efforts to move out of flood prone areas. In fact, a whole town in Iowa was relocated to higher ground to avoid needing aid again. There's nothing wrong with encouraging such decisions, even providing financial aid to make it happen. I agree it saves everybody money in the long run. Furthermore, some people don't get much aid at all. When my parents' cabin was flooded a few years ago, they could get a voucher for cleaning supplies, but not much else. Some of the neighbors were able to get bought out (as the Iowa town was) but the owner of the land had to agree not to rent the land to anyone else, for which he was reimbursed by the federal government. But those kind of voluntary steps are not the type of initiative Barnes was talking about.
Second, whether you're below sea-level like New Orleans or a foot above like most of Florida does not make much difference when the storm surge is 15 feet. So basically, Barnes, who lives in Florida, is saying that the state of Florida is uninhabitable (which the Spanish found out when they tried to colonize it in the 16th century). Okay fine, let's think of the billions of dollars in wealth that would disappear overnight if the federal government stopped providing insurance and clean-up support after hurricanes. What are those lyrics, "Don't it make your red state, blue"?
Thirdly, every place carries some kind of risk. The midwest has tornadoes and blizzards. Should people move out of the midwest because of it? Where should they move to?
Fourth, some people have no choice but to live in flood-prone areas. Housing is cheap there -- because it floods -- and cheap is all they can afford.
Fifth, powerful interests prevent the types of measures that could minimize damage. Realtors and developers want to keep right on selling coastal lots because they carry a lot higher price tag than inland ones. And mobile home makers want to keep on selling death traps, fighting tie-downs and other requirements as government intrusion.
Six, rich people like Barnes never realize how they are being subsidized by the federal government, thinking that if they don't get a check in the mail it's not happening. But every time a storm-damaged bridge is repaired or the National Guard deployed to direct traffic, taxpayers are paying for it, not Barnes and his private insurance company.
Seventh, as high as the bill will be for Katrina, it's a fraction of what we're spending in Iraq every month.
Eighth, if you don't believe in global warming and don't want to do anything to stop it, you should shut up about paying for national disasters. Hurricanes gather strength over warm ocean water.
And there are more points that could be made, but I'll leave it to the readers to express the outrage that I'm feeling right now. We may need a national dialogue on disaster aid, but we don't need to laugh literally while people are dying.
Our thanks to the good people at Liberal Oasis for providing the transcript of the entire shameful episode. You will see that Kondracke first suggests the "Drop Dead" headline but Barnes endorses it.
"FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": You know, I was talking to a Republican official today who had his television on. And he was watching it.And he said, you know, every half or hour or so, you know, there's another billion dollars, another billion dollars the federal government's going to have to spend.
And talking about what is going to be a massive supplemental spending bill that will undoubtedly pass overwhelming in the House and the Senate this fall. I also predict the president, if he's not already in New Orleans, will be there very soon. Maybe the water has to subside a little.
I mean, that's a part of it. The president has to go there, has to promise all kinds of money. Congress passes it. And, in some cases, it's OK.
But my problem with it is that, in some of these areas, like a below- sea-level city like New Orleans, they're not -- they want the rest of us to insure their risk. As people who live on the San Andreas Fault in California, where they know there are going to be earthquakes, people who live along the Mississippi River in these low farmland areas...
BARNES: ... near the river, the floodplains. They know they're going to flood. And when these things happen, they want the taxpayers all over the country to pay, and they do.
HUME: So they can rebuild, right?
BARNES: Yes, right, exactly.
KONDRACKE: I mean, it's...
HUME: How many times have you heard the guy, "Well, we got wiped out in Camille, but we rebuild. We love it here. And we'll rebuild again."
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right, with your money.
KONDRACKE: Well, you know, where do you draw the line in this case? Do you see, "OK, you people in New Orleans, you self-insure. We're not covering any of you." I mean, there would be presumably no New Orleans left.
HUME: And what would the headline be to in the tabloid newspaper?
KONDRACKE: "Washington, D.C. to New Orleans: Drop dead."
BARNES: Drop dead.
KONDRACKE: Right, exactly. Bush actually exceeded the Clinton record this time. He declared the emergency in advance in all of these states, so that they can get...
HUME: Declared an emergency, then a disaster.
KONDRACKE: Yes, so he could get everything rolling early. And you know, his first FEMA director was Joe Albaugh, who was his chief of staff when he was governor of Texas. So he learned the Clinton lesson and the Bush I lesson.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's a bit unseemly to talk about cutting off aid to these people while the hurricane is still roaring through Mississippi. But let's give it a try.
You're right about these places where people willingly accept risk. And the worst are the Barrier Islands, that are we know are sort of worn away by nature over time dramatically. And we spend billions trying to stop it, dredging, and moving sand, and all of this. And then a hurricane comes along, and 10 years of work is wiped out.
What we have to have is a little political courage, which of course is never going to happen, which is that we all agree that some areas of the country are too dangerous and too expensive...
HUME: To insure?
KRAUTHAMMER: To insure.
HUME: And the insurance companies will decide that for us, but then suddenly the government steps in, right?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, we have to declare in advance certain areas off- limits to federal aid. Now, I don't think that's ever going to happen. But unless we do,we are asking for -- I mean, as we build hugely on the coast -- these disasters to hit us again, and again, and we never learn a lesson.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, the question is, where do you draw the line? And that's the problem. Do you draw it at the Barrier Islands? Do you draw it at Vero Beach, you know, where Fred has a beach house?
HUME: How did your house, by the way, do over the weekend?
BARNES: Well, it did fine, because we were on the Atlantic coast and the hurricane went to the Gulf Coast. So it missed it entirely.
HUME: It got rained on, right?
BARNES: But last year, when there were two hurricanes, and I got a new roof, I paid my part. My private insurance company paid the other part. The federal government and taxpayers paid no part.
HUME: What about the cover on your swimming pool? Did the government...
BARNES: I paid all of that.