By Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, US Daily Review.
The headlines of dozens of lives lost, entire cities blown away, and financial devastation beyond measure will make most Americans grateful there is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). After all, what would people do if there was not such an agency?
That is a great question and for a reasonable answer, I think back through history to one of my favorite Presidents, Grover Cleveland. He is one that is largely neglected by the media and historians today, which are indicators of their own as being someone I would likely admire, since the standard measure of “greatness” today is seen by how much a leader makes the people dependent on government.
Cleveland, who served in the last decades of the 19th century, was not driven by populist notions, but by principle. He saw serving in office as a sacred responsibility, stating that “Your every voter, as surely as your chief magistrate, exercises a public trust.” Cleveland was different in his style and substance. While today’s President’s were quick to make promises, Cleveland made commitments, stating “Though the people support the government; the government should not support the people.” This message would fall on deaf ears among the “entitled” people driving the elections today.
Cleveland was a stickler when it came to that Constitution and he set a hard standard for other Presidents to maintain. History showed that most would not. Dr. Burt Folsom, in his excellent book, New Deal or Raw Deal, pointed out that “In the 1800s, voluntary organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were formed to give food, shelter, clothing, and spiritual help to individuals and groups that faces crises. Sometimes, of course, Congress was tempted to play politics with relief. In 1887, for example, several counties in Texas faced a long drought and some farmers lost their crops. Texas politicians helped cajole Congress into granting $10,000 worth of free seeds for these distressed farmers in Texas. After the bill passed the Senate and House, Cleveland vetoed it, saying, ‘I can find no warrant for such an appropriating in the Constitution.’ Such aid would ‘destroy the partitions between proper subjects of Federal and local care and regulation.’ He added, ‘Federal aid, in such cases, encourages the expectations of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.'” Cleveland believed the American people would not abandon its fellow citizens in the Lone Star state. Folsom noted Cleveland’s response, “the friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune.” It appears Grover Cleveland had far more faith in the American people than most politicians today.
Cleveland could not be more accurate in his predictions. People not only gave, but did so at a level beyond the imagination of the Texas farmers and the politicians who represented them. Fellow Americans from all over the country gave gifts exceeding $100,000. That amount was more than ten times the amount Congress had tried to take from the taxpayers through unconstitutional means (do what Cleveland did, read the Constitution, such spending cannot be found there). The Founding Fathers never saw a “charity” role for government, that perspective was validated in both word and deed almost a century later by Cleveland’s courageous veto and his belief in the American people.
So what would happen if there was no FEMA? Clearly millions of Americans would join individuals like myself and send checks to the various organizations that are helping on the frontlines of this disaster. The money would likely get there much quicker, than from Washington, and go to the real needs rather than being driven by awkward and often irrelevant government guidelines. Because organizations like these are competing for contributions, they must be very careful or risk losing the support of those who give; this is something the government is never concerned about. In sum, if there was no FEM, the victims of this disaster and the citizens that support them would clearly be better off.