While governors across the country have praised the federal government’s rapid response to Hurricane Sandy, Fox News sought to remind viewers of the evils of Washington, criticizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for “printing money” and relying on China to fund relief for victims of the storm.
On Thursday, the hosts of Fox & Friends argued that Americans affected by the hurricane could turn to private insurers for help and suggested that hurricane relief could be left to the states:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (HOST): There is an argument about federal versus state. I mean, some people have said the states should be in charge of some of this relief money, so you don’t have to go and request to the federal. I mean, I understand why you have to go before Congress, because otherwise you could have a situation where you’re giving out money willy nilly.
PETER JOHNSON (GUEST HOST): In essence, FEMA has an ability to print money. And as we were talking about before, Steve, who in the end will be paying for our flood damage in the short-term? Who will be putting up the dollars? Will China? Will we be becoming more indebted to China as a result of our floods on our coast?
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): That’s right. It’s never free money. You know, Congress can say okay, we’re going to come up with the dough and here is the thing, FEMA has this gigantic program with over a trillion dollars worth of property insured, but they only got $3 billion in the bank. That’s crazy. But because we’ve got such a gigantic deficit right now, Peter, you’re exactly right. If the Congress says okay, let’s put more money in the ’till for FEMA, that money is probably going to be borrowed from China.
FEMA estimates it has enough funds for disaster aid, but it’s unclear if the agency’s federal flood insurance program will be able to provide for the flood damage caused by the storm (private insurers typically don’t cover flooding.) FEMA owes $18 billion to the Treasury Department from Hurricane Katrina, but may have immediate access to $3.8 billion. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) also plans to introduce legislation “to provide $12 billion in new emergency assistance funds.”
But Fox News is arguing that the federal government is overplaying its hand and should leave recovery to the states, local governments, and private entities. FEMA director Craig Fugate has indeed embraced a “whole community approach to emergency management nationally,” recognizing that “all aspects of a community (volunteer, faith, and community-based organizations, the private sector, and the public, including survivors themselves) – not just the government – to effectively prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against any disaster.” And while all parties play an important role in relief, only the federal government can coordinate and organize disaster relief that spans across state lines and inflicts billions of dollars in damage.