Saturday, May 25, 2013

Does Moore, Oklahoma need FEMA?

There are many ways a person can spend a Saturday morning that will bring enjoyment to their lives.  For me, relaxing with a cup of coffee, the newspaper and good conversation with my wife is at the top of the list.
For others it might be biking, sleeping in or playing baseball.
Today, I had the opportunity to spend my Saturday morning doing something totally different with people who normally are doing something other than what we found ourselves doing.
On this Saturday, I found myself donning a red stocking cap of some sort while making lentil stew dinners for complete strangers in my home state of Oklahoma.   With me were my sons, their good friend, members of my Little League baseball team, their parents and about 200 or so other private citizens for whom Moore, Oklahoma is but a dot on a map - but also now a place in their hearts.

In an amazing display of speed, efficiency and joy the people in the large room (donated by a for-profit business) worked with the staff of a wonderful charity called Feeding Children Everywhere in an assembly line that mixed lentils, salt, spices and rice into bags that were quickly weighed, sealed and packed - 96 bags to a box - in cardboard boxes. 

My group managed to make 768 bags - enough for over 2,000 meals.  Other tables did even more.

Next to the front door where stacks of donated bottled water which rested next to scores of bags of food that people brought in that morning.  Next to that food was a jar filling up with cash and checks to buy even more food for the 33,000 Oklahomans in need.

I asked one of the staff members when the food would leave for the Sooner State.  "Within days" was his answer.

All of this kindness - from Floridians to Oklahomans 2,000 miles away - reminded me of a story...

In the 1830's Congressman David Crockett was asked to vote on using taxpayer dollars to relieve the suffering of the wife of a deceased Naval Officer.  Congressman Crockett rose to the floor of the House of Representatives and said, “Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.” (Read more:

Which brings me to this point.
The people of my home state do not need FEMA.  They do not need to wait around for the slow process of federal aid.  They do not need to rely on the plunder of their fellowman.
All they need is the private charity that can only come from the care and compassion their fellow Americans are showing them now. 
Imagine how much more money and time we could give to other victims of other disasters if we did not have to pay income taxes.  From 1776-1913 we owed the IRS zero money and FEMA did not exist.
Through fires and floods and tornadoes and drought, private citizens helped their neighbors without the forced philanthropy that government has created.
Left to our own devices - and left with more of our hard-earned money in our pockets - the same would happen today at a much faster pace and with more love than any bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. could ever hope to show.


  1. One of the wonderful things that happens every time we have a natural disaster of this sort is that Americans give to those in need in spite of/in addition to the "forced philanthropy" that the federal government provides. Meals are needed and it's great that folks take the time to do that work. But last night on the news the mayor of Moore was saying that her community absolutely needs and is counting on the money that FEMA will provide, to rebuild their infrastructure so that the rebuilding of homes, etc can proceed. It just doesn't seem probable that charitable donations/work alone would be enough to relieve the suffering when something of this magnitude takes place.

  2. I have to agree with Russ. Feeding hungry people is a very noble endeavor, but the destruction is so great that it will take an awful lot of money to rebuild the infrastructure.
    We can see what is happening all over the country...bridges are crumbling and roads need repair. When you look at other countries you can see that we are falling behind.

  3. Russ and Anneliese

    I am afraid you are both wrong. First, Americans gave $300 billion to charity last year. The tornado damages won't even be $1 billion. There is plenty of charity to rebuild - and if our tax burdens were like they used to be - or if we did not spend over $1 trillion per year on other welfare programs like the money for 47 million food stamp recipients, we would have even more for rebuilding.

    As for roads and bridges - that is a function of government according to the Constitution. Charity is not - since it is impossible for government to be charitable.

    I wish someone of the left persuasion would, once and for all, articulate why it is o.k. to take money from someone in Connecticut, by force, to give it to someone in Oklahoma. Why is that ever o.k.? If I took my neighbors money by force today and mailed it to Oklahoma I would go to jail. Why should a voting booth be allowed to do what is a crime any other time?

    1. Jack, I guess I can try. I think I understand that we have a fundamental difference in outlook concerning the idea of an income tax. You want to be able to keep all of the money you earn. I don't mind the government taking some of what I earn and using it to further what I see as useful causes, whether helping disadvantaged people get enough to eat (food stamps for instance), or sending money and resources to address the dire results of natural disasters.

      I am not a Christian, though I grew up in a family that was at the church every time the doors opened. I understand the idea of a tithe (though it rankles me that churches do not have to pay taxes on land, buildings, etc), and I guess I think of an income tax as a kind of tithe. (I can hear you groaning now--how naive, you're thinking, to even pretend that such a tithe would be managed well by a government). The bottom line is that you have an innate distrust of central government; I feel the opposite way. Yes, there will always be excesses and screwups since governments are composed of flawed human beings. For me, "freedom" has less to do with "my" money and more to do with the idea that everyone should, as much as possible, get an equal chance at a decent life. And I just don't think that charity alone can be trusted to provide that adequately. Inevitably there will be some shirkers who scam the system, just as there are shyster preachers taking naive people's money and using it to their own advantage every day.

      I realize that this will not be a satisfactory answer to the question you pose in your last paragraph above. Neither I nor anyone of the "left persuasion" would probably ever be able to answer that question for you convincingly. But I do appreciate the opportunity your blog provides. I like to read the thoughts of those with whom I disagree--I like to have my thoughts challenged. Maybe that's one reason I enjoy teaching as a profession--the give and take in the classroom is invigorating and also challenging. If my students have not heard both sides of an issue, I have failed them.

  4. Russ,

    I appreciate your taking the time to answer my question. Before I respond, can you answer one more, please?

    What responsibility do you believe people in Oklahoma have to provide home insurance so that taxpayers' exposure to tornadoes can be lessened?

  5. Not sure what you mean about the people providing home insurance. Do you mean that they should be required to buy home insurance? If so, aren't they already, if they have a mortgage? The people who have mortgages are already taxpayers, and if they owe a bank for their mortgage, they are required to also purchase insurance. I don't know how the laws in Ok. might be different in this regard than elsewhere, so I might be misunderstanding your question. I suppose that if your question is also meant to include those who rent and don't buy renters' insurance, that could complicate the issue of insurance/reimbursement for natural disasters.

    But it isn't just homes that are destroyed by tornadoes, right? Schools, bridges, roads, government buildings...All of those things are owned by the people collectively, and there needs to be some collective response to replacing them.

  6. I have to agree with Russ and I also never minded paying my taxes before I retired. I also do not mind helping someone in another state or country.
    I know you don't agree with this, but at least I have Russ on my side.
    We now represent the majority on this blog. (kidding of course)

  7. Help: A voluntary act

    Income tax: Involuntary act of taking private property

    Those who don't mind paying income taxes: People who think everyone should not mind.

    I mind.

  8. Jack,
    I haven't responded to your blog in a long time because I usually don't feel the need to. In this case however, I want to make it real clear. FEMA can stay away. If anyone believes otherwise, then they don't have a clue about Oklahomans. I get sick of hearing the bs from people that don't know anything this area. There were donations and community support within minutes of that tornado passing. With Devon, Chesapeake, and Kevin Durant alone there was 4.5 million dollars donated. Driving through Moore you can see palets of unused water and donations. We don't need FEMA out here. We have a enough good people to take care of our own. Even my wife was out several nights helping trap lost cats to bring them to the animal shelter. Then our idiot of president has the nerve to talk about "Monroe Oklahoma" while visiting New Jersey again?! FEMA is useless.

  9. It is great hearing from you again - great insight into what is going on out there!