Thank a Democrat: The Federal Emergency Management Agency

by J. Michael Atherton


As the Climate Crisis intensifies, the need for FEMA support will increase. In this “Thank a Democrat” column, Mike Atherton comments on the role Dems have played in the agency’s work.

You never know when a tornado, hurricane, flood, wild-fire or some other disaster might strike, especially with Climate Crises. In 1979 Jimmy Carter, a noted Democrat with uncanny foresight, started the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. The agency was designed to help those in need with timely assistance so they could find shelter, medical care, food, and the support that any person needs after disaster has struck.


The very first Federal government disaster help occurred in 1802 in Portsmouth. Fire destroyed the city and residents had nowhere to turn. Among other forms of government assistance that came pouring was the suspension of their bond payments for several months thus allowing the city to grow to its present place in New Hampshire society. We learned through the Portsmouth fire that government has a big part to play in our lives.


Some events are too powerful, too deadly, and too overwhelming for average citizens to “get by” and “do it themselves”. Sometimes we need others and the “other” we seek when we are overwhelmed is our government. In an act of pure hypocrisy, anti-government people gleefully accept whatever they can get if disaster hits them but vehemently resent it whenever our government helps others in need.


Republicans have consistently tried to privatize and downsize FEMA. But just as privatized prisons serve only their wealthy stockholders by increasing the number of prisoners, so too a privatized FEMA would serve the wealthy but let poor communities fend for themselves. Downsizing FEMA would make it too weak to serve anyone in need. A reduced FEMA would help only the wealthy who already have disaster protections or can afford to start again. Those who need FEMA are precisely those who have little and can’t afford to “start again”.


FEMA is a living sign that compassion exists in our nation. Its agents rush in when everyone else is rushing out. They are trained to help people when they are at their lowest. FEMA shows the world that the U.S.A. is a great nation rather than just saying those words.


If you think we need an agency that helps us in our time of need, if you think it is wrong to be stingy with money when people are hurt and lost; if you think our government respects its citizens better than companies that are slaves to the profit motive; then Thank a Democrat.

About the author:


Mike has retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy (after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school). Four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage, first child, and PhD all at the University of Chicago. Moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where wife Cynthia Walter taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. Moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our environment.

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