Sunday, November 4, 2012

Krugman the Political Operative

Paul Krugman is a True Believer in FEMA, or at least FEMA run by Democrats. Despite the many news stories of chaos and violence in New York and New Jersey following the ravages of Hurricane Sandy (which only was a Category 1 hurricane, whereas Katrina was a Category 3), Krugman insists that the True Believing Obama administration's version of FEMA has performed magnificently.

(One can hear Krugman telling Obama, "You've done a heckuva job.)

Not satisfied with assuming that the damage to the New York area was comparable to much of New Orleans being flooded after a canal levee collapsed (Sorry, Paul, not even close), he then tells an outright falsehood regarding the response to the tragedy in Hoboken:
I could do a point-by-point — and it’s definitely worth it, if you’re curious, to revisit the 2005 Katrina timeline to get a sense of just how bad the response really was. But for me the difference is summed up in two images. One is the nightmare at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded for days amid inconceivable squalor, an outrage that all of America watched live on TV, but to which top officials seemed oblivious. The other is the scene in flooded Hoboken, with the National Guard moving in the day after the storm struck to deliver food and water and rescue stranded residents.
In other words, the National Guard immediately took care of things. (By the way, the National Guard and even FEMA were on the ground quickly in New Orleans, but government agents there acted like government agents, telling Wal-Mart its deliveries of thousands of bottles of water was "not needed," and forcing rescue workers to undergo two days of "sexual harassment" prevention training. One would think Krugman would approve, given he hates Wal-Mart and loves government haranguing of private citizens.)

Notice that Krugman did not mention Staten Island, where apparently FEMA did not perform its Krugmanesque heroics and chaos reigns as people cannot find food or anything else. Nor does he mention the gas shortages created by price controls, but Krugman is not much for prices, anyway, unless they are part of an index.

His biggest howler comes with his lavish praise of Bill Clinton's FEMA. He writes:
...Bill Clinton came in, put FEMA under professional management, and saw the agency’s reputation restored.
James Bovard would beg to differ. In his outstanding book, Feeling Your Pain, in which he chronicles the abuses and exploits of Clinton's administration, Bovard devotes an entire chapter to FEMA, which, contra Krugman, had the largest percentage of political appointees of any federal agency and handed out post-disaster checks, whether people wanted them or not. An Amazon review says:
His chapter on disaster relief is especially good, showing how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is "determined to spend tax dollars to rescue citizens, regardless of how irresponsible or negligent they have been and regardless of whether they have requested help."
Krugman's column is not so much a piece about federal agencies but rather is just another partisan political screed. He also forgets something else, and that is the brunt of Katrina did not hit New Orleans but rather the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Alabama. In those areas, the FEMA presence was not as noticeable and, not surprisingly, the Gulf Coast recovered more quickly than did New Orleans.

You see, huge numbers of private volunteers, church groups, and other citizens went to the Gulf Coast to help, something that Krugman ignores because, after all, these people were not in the employ of the government, which means they are irrelevant and useless. As for New Orleans, the government told volunteers to get lost.


Jim Bovard said...

Great detail on Katrina & sexual harassment training. Did the feds prepare a New Orleans-specific type of anti-harassment prep?

JG said...

As usual, you've deliberately missed the point of what Krugman was saying. The whole point of this article was to contrast the different responses to disaster relief when two different administrations were in charge of FEMA. A point that you completely side-step, as you usually do when you're smearing Krugman.

SANDY - FEMA was headed by a professional in disaster response with experience as the state of Florida's disaster response team.

KATRINA - FEMA was headed by a friend of the Bush family with no background in emergency management.

RESULT - FEMA was caught flat-flooted by Katrina but was proactive in getting supplies to New York ahead of Sandy. Therefore, they didn't need to fill Yankee Stadium with refugees like they did with the Superdome.

CONCLUSION - When people who hate government are put in charge of running government they tend to do an awful job.

Scott D said...


1. Katrina was a much more severe disaster than Sandy, which Krugman fails to take into account. False equivalence.

2. Krugman cites wordage from Romney and Allbaugh to the effect that disaster relief should be handled at the state and local level. This is not what happened with Katrina. FEMA muscled in and blocked local and private efforts. The rhetoric that Krugman cites is just that, rhetoric.

JG said...

Scott D,

1. Katrina was not more severage than Sandy. Katrina may have been a higher category storm but Sandy was far larger and impacted a large portion of the country. Katrina only covered 415 miles across its diameter, Sandy was over 1,000 miles in size. Sandy also hit the most densely populated part of America, along the I-95 corridor from DC-to-Philly-to-NYC-to-Boston, which had the potential for far more damage and fatalities than the Gulf Coast. This is hardly a false equivalency.

2. The state and local governments were incompetent and useless during Katrina, which is why Krugman rightly blasted that quote from Romney about pushing disaster relief down to the states.

Viking said...

JG said:

"When people who hate government are put in charge of government they tend to do an awful job."

"The state and local governments were incompetent and useless during Katrina."

JG, I hate to tell you this, but the state and local governments in Louisiana and New Orleans were led by Democrats, hardly haters of government.

JG said...


And your point is what? That some Democrats are as incompetent as most Republicans?

There is a difference between one party having some incompetents in their midst and another party that embraces incompetence and ineffectiveness as its defining attribute.

Samm said...

In other words: JG’s party’s incompetence is acceptable, but the other party’s is not.

JG said...

Democrats believe in the effectiveness of government. Because they believe it works they usually run it well, with some exceptions for individual incompetence.

Republicans believe government is inherently ineffective and their disdain for government leads them to under-fund, under-staff and generally mismanage government whenever they are elected to govern.

Hiring a Republican (or worse, a libertarian) to run government is like hiring an atheist to work as a missionary for a church. People who has such disdain for their job will fail 100% of the time.