Here’s my conversation with Megan O’Matz, one of the Sun-Sentinel reporters whose investigation has uncovered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted by FEMA over the last few years through abuse and fraud. For example, there’s the Florida county that got $31 million in aid even though it was a hundred miles away from Hurricane Frances, and the section of Los Angeles that got $5 million in aid even though it was 25 miles away from — and unaffected by — the 2003 California wildfires.
Part of the problem, of course, is politics, which is where Russell Sobel comes in. He’s an economics professor at West Virginia University who, two years ago, wrote a paper on The Economics of FEMA, which showed how politics get in the way of getting the money to the people who need it and instead diverting it to places where it can effect the most political gain. Sobel suggests getting rid of FEMA, with all of its political quicksand, and letting the private sector (both business and charitable organizations) take the lead in US disaster relief without the government red tape.
Both of these stories make me nauseous, because there’s no oversight, no accountability, no responsibility — just a bottomless well of tax dollars earmarked for relief that is instead thrown away.