You Can Prevent A Disaster

Hurricane Sandy has renewed the debate over eliminating FEMA and privatizing disaster relief.  The argument generally goes that a private company will do a much better job reducing costs and therefore make the system more efficient.

There’s nothing hugely wrong with this argument in principal, until you start to think of ways a business in charge of disaster relief might cut costs.  But that’s a fairly obvious stumbling block, and honestly, if people haven’t figured that one out after privatizing hospitals, emergency response, and prisons, they never will. But there’s a much more insidious and horrifying problem that has only become clear in recent years.

The privatizing of America’s prison system has led to major profits for company’s running prisons.  And that profit has gained them one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill. The prison lobby works to stop decrimilization, increase penalties, make harsher sentencing, etc.  In other words, they try to rewrite laws so that more Americas go to prison, and stay in prison.  It is one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made, and we seem to be in no hurry to change it.  More of us are in prison every day because of this, and there’s no end in sight.

To be honest, that could be the subject of an all-day, every day blog in and of itself, but lets stick to the subject of disaster relief.  Imagine such a lobby for a company who profits from disaster relief.  What might it work to change, so that the companies make more money?

They might lobby to weaken building codes.  Weaker construction means more damage, longer disaster recovery times, greater need for assistance, more people in jeopardy.  Big bucks for a company paid for the time they are there providing aid and assistance.

How about weather / geological science?  Such a lobby knows the better informed and prepared we are for disasters, the less we will need aid.  They’d want to gut those programs, and the Disaster Lobby would work hard to eliminate funding for anything that might reduce their profits.

Infrastructure spending is already too low, but the Disaster Lobby would want to kill it as much as they can.  Sound bridges, roads, water systems, all these mean less work when a disaster hits. In addition, the weaker and less prepared the levy system, the better the Disaster Profits.

A company that profits from disaster would work as hard as they can to make America weaker, less prepared, and put its citizens more at risk.  We can’t keep making this same mistake over and over again.  At some point we have to wake up to the real danger of privatizing services that belong in the hands of government.  Government has a role to play, a vitally important one, and one that cannot and should not be handed off to for-profit companies.  This dam must hold against the tide of conservatism before it’s too late, and so many cracks form that we can’t hold out the flood waters.

Privatizing FEMA would be the real disaster.


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