Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 19, 2009 / 23 Teves 5769

Our permanent state of routine emergency

By Mark Steyn


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In just about his last act as president, George W. Bush has declared Washington, D.C., a federal disaster area.


No, seriously. I'm not setting up some lame-o punchline here, like we used to do a decade back in the good old Monica days: "President Clinton today declared his pants a federal disaster area," etc. What happened last week was that the Bush administration formally declared a federal emergency in the District of Columbia.


So what was it? An ice storm? A hurricane?


No, it's the inauguration of his successor. The inauguration is scheduled to make landfall on Tuesday and wreak havoc all night long, as Category Five conga lines buckle highways round town, and emergency busboy crews find themselves overwhelmed as they struggle to clear drained champagne flutes. So the mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, put in a request for more federal money, and, apparently, the easiest way to sluice the cash to him no questions asked was for the president to declare a state of emergency in the District and funnel however many extra gazillions he wants through FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


"I don't know if anybody's ever done that," said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary.


Indeed. One reason why nobody's ever done that before is because a presidential inauguration is not (to be boringly technical about it) an "emergency." It's penciled in well in advance — in this case, so well in advance that for years Democrats have been driving around with "1-20-09" bumper stickers on the back of their Priuses. Emergency-wise, that's the equivalent of Hurricane Dan Rather wrapped around a lamppost in his sou'wester, hanging there in eager anticipation every night for half a decade. Generally speaking, changes of government are only "emergencies" in the livelier banana republics where this week's president-for-life suddenly spots the machete-wielding mob scrambling over the palace walls so nimbly he barely has time to dial the Liberian branch of FEMA and put in a request for extra Portapotties and a rope-line management team.


The proposition that a new federal administration is itself a federal emergency is almost too perfect an emblem of American government in the 21st century. FEMA was created in the 1970s initially to coordinate the emergency response to catastrophic events such as a nuclear attack. But there weren't a lot of those even in the Carter years, so, as is the way with bureaucracies, FEMA just growed like Topsy. In his first year in office, Bill Clinton declared a then-record-setting 58 federal emergencies. By the end of the Nineties, Mother Nature was finding it hard to come up with a meteorological phenomenon that didn't qualify as a federal emergency: Heavy rain in the Midwest? Call FEMA! Light snow in Vermont? FEMA! Fifty-seven under cloudy skies in California? Let those FEMA trailers roll!


The Cato Institute's James Bovard was struck by the plight of Vernon, Conn., a town ravaged in the winter of 1995-96 by, er, slightly more snow than they'd expected. So FEMA sent them a check for $40,023. Vernon had 30,000 people, and its town snow-removal costs that winter were $258,000. "That's just $8.60 per person," Bovard pointed out, "less than a 12-year-old charges to shovel out a driveway after a good snowfall."


So why did they need "federal emergency" aid? Because the town had only budgeted $104,516, and so claimed to be "overwhelmed" by the additional costs. They could have asked the good burghers of Vernon to chip in an extra five bucks apiece. But why bother when FEMA's so eager to give you a warm bath in the federal love nectar? The town government wised up pretty quickly. The next winter, they set the snow-removal budget at just $69,383.


So a "federal emergency" is no longer a nuclear strike on Cleveland or even a Category Three hurricane, but now a snowfall in New England and an inaugural ball at the Mayflower Hotel. As Mister Incredible shrewdly observes to his kid in "The Incredibles," when everybody's special, nobody is. Likewise, when everything's an emergency, nothing is: We live in a permanent state of routine emergency.


The metastasization of FEMA teaches several lessons — the first and most obvious being that any new government program, agency or entitlement will always outgrow whatever narrow purpose it was created for. Which is why we small-government types are wary of creating any new ones in the first place. Thus, an itsy-bitsy bit of inconsequential government tinkering on the periphery of the mortgage market expanded to the point where federally mandated home loans to the uncreditworthy came close to collapsing not just the U.S. property market but the global financial system.


If you'd suggested in the Seventies a new federal agency to cope with municipal snow removal in Connecticut, you'd have been laughed out the room. But, with government, mission creep isn't a bug but the defining feature. In mid-September, the "bailout" was a once-in-a-lifetime emergency measure to save the planet. A mere four months later, it's the new baseline. If your congressman's lousy boondoggle has got six zeroes on the end, it's an earmark: Boooooooooo! If it's got 12 zeroes, it's a "stimulus": Hurrah!


I'm not worried about "change" so much as creep. The Obama administration doesn't have to do anything terribly transformative — overnight socialization of health care, etc. In fact, it doesn't have to do anything at all. It could just sit there, and America would still drift remorselessly, incrementally left, inch by inch. Eventually, you reach a tipping point: At some point in the next four years, we will reach a situation where the majority of Americans pay no federal income tax but are able to vote themselves more goodies from those who do. The most basic of conservative principles is that if you reward bad behavior you get more of it. We now have a government offering trillion-dollar rewards for bad behavior to the financial system, to the housing market, to the auto unions and to individual voters. And the heirs to those Connecticut town meetings that Tocqueville regarded as the best form of government ever devised by man now underbudget their snow-removal costs, secure in the knowledge that the Feds will pick up the tab.


We're now told that the problem with the last New Deal is that it was too small, so Obama's new New Deal has to be even bigger. That's like telling New Orleans that the problem is they're not far enough below sea level so they need to dig deeper. If Washington is now a federal disaster area, it would be nice to think of Barney Frank and the gang waving from the roof of the Capitol until they can be evacuated somewhere safe, like one of the outlying South Sandwich Islands or Charley Rangel's vacation property in the Dominican Republic. But, alas, Washington is one of those disaster relief cases, where they get the relief, and the rest of us get the disaster. As the incoming president has said, this is the worst crisis since …oh, at least the great Vernon, Conn., snowfall of 1996. To facilitate the stimulus, I urge him to declare every American his own individual federal disaster area.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Mark Steyn is a syndicated columnist. Comment by clicking here.


ARCHIVES
STEYN'S LATEST
"America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It"  

It's the end of the world as we know it…      Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer from a muezzin. Europeans already are.
     And liberals will still tell you that "diversity is our strength"—while Talibanic enforcers cruise Greenwich Village burning books and barber shops, the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn't violate the "separation of church and state," and the Hollywood Left decides to give up on gay rights in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.
     If you think this can't happen, you haven't been paying attention, as the hilarious, provocative, and brilliant Mark Steyn—the most popular conservative columnist in the English-speaking world—shows to devastating effect in this, his first and eagerly awaited new book on American and global politics.
     The future, as Steyn shows, belongs to the fecund and the confident. And the Islamists are both, while the West—wedded to a multiculturalism that undercuts its own confidence, a welfare state that nudges it toward sloth and self-indulgence, and a childlessness that consigns it to oblivion—is looking ever more like the ruins of a civilization.
     Europe, laments Steyn, is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America alone—with maybe its cousins in brave Australia. But America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world's last best hope.
     Steyn argues that, contra the liberal cultural relativists, America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the world—for our own sake as well as theirs.
     Mark Steyn's America Alone is laugh-out-loud funny—but it will also change the way you look at the world. It is sure to be the most talked-about book of the year.
Sales help fund JWR.

© 2009, Mark Steyn

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles