Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), you may have heard, is no fan of government assistance. Just last week, as he kicked off his third run for president, he voiced his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and government aid for victims of natural disasters.
Asked again about the second issue on Fox News Sunday, Paul went a step further. While arguing against the existence of FEMA, the aw-shucks Libertarian erroneously claimed that the agency was in charge of the levees currently being used to try to minimize flood damage along the swollen Mississippi. And he seemed to suggest that federally-run flood control systems themselves are a problem, because now officials have to choose where to send the excess water.From the transcript:
So, no, FEMA is a problem. You brought up the subject, you know, of the Mississippi. FEMA is more or less in charge. But their decision now, because of government levees, because of the flood and no natural result and taking care of this flood, they have a decision to make. OK, down the Mississippi and flood this city, or down here and flood some innocent farmers.
I mean, this is the kind of dilemma that wouldn’t happen in a society that didn’t expect the government to solve our problems. But to expect the government and people who aren’t benefiting to pay for me to live on the beach and get my house blown down, that’s not morally correct and it’s not in the Constitution, if that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.
Now, FEMA is not in charge of the levees along the Mississippi. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is. But Paul is right that without flood control, officials wouldn’t have to wrestle the dilemmas they now face. (As Reuters reports, for instance, thousands of homes and farms could be left underwater as a result of the opening of a key floodway in the Louisiana bayou, opened in an attempt to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans.) The last great Mississippi flood to occur before the federal government instituted a flood control program happened in 1927 — it claimed 200 lives, displaced 600,000 people and cost $1.5 billion in today’s dollars. It was followed shortly thereafter by the Flood Control Act of 1928.
Watch (key portion starts at 2:10):