The problem I see with this debate is that it's too blinkered. By putting one federal program under the microscope, we are ignoring the fact that our taxes pay for a wide range of programs, each of which could be seen to "favor" certain regions. For example, farm subsidies "favor" those states where agriculture is a major industry. Urban renewal programs "favor" those states with the largest cities. Similarly, FEMA "favors" those states that are more prone to natural disaster. So what?
The real problem with tax distribution is that the wealthier states disproportionately support the poorer states. It has nothing to do with individual programs, but with per capita income. Now, it could be argued that many of those programs would be better funded and administrated by the individual states in the first place, but that is not the premise of this discussion.
I have long felt that, apart from funding that goes to national services and infrastructure, federal taxes should be disbursed proportionately - states should get back what they put in. This could either be through federal programs or through direct refunds to the states so that they can take care of their own business. In other words, everyone's
tax dollars should support the military, the interstate highway system, etc., but the surplus should either be allotted on the basis of what the citizens of each state pay in income taxes or it should simply be returned to the states (or taxpayers) themselves. As certain politicians depend on this sort of welfare to win the hearts of the heartland, however, a just system of federal funding will never
Mississippi, as of 2003
, got $1.89 in return for every tax dollar contributed. Alabama got $1.83. While little of that came from FEMA in terms of hurricane, flood, or tornado relief, it could be argued - easily - that they are being overly subsidized by wealthier states in general. The other biggest welfare recipients are Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia, each of which gets back more than $1.50 for every dollar they put in - none of them all that disaster-prone. Lesser welfare states include Arkansas, the Carolinas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The biggest losers in terms of subsidizing the poorer members of the Union are New Jersey (which gets fifty-seven cents back for every tax dollar contributed), California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York, none of whom get back more than eighty cents. In short, the "northeastern elites" (and the left coast) are making the welfare payments to all those "red states" - and FEMA relief has little to do with it. Are heavy consumers of FEMA funds paying their fair share of FEMA insurance? Should there be a FEMA cap per state (or per state revenue)?
Yes, they are. No, there shouldn't. As Florida has been singled out, it's worth mentioning that Florida and Oregon are the only
states that get one dollar in return for every tax dollar they contribute. They are paying exactly
their fair share of federal income tax and every program it supports - FEMA included. California, prone to earthquakes, brush fires, and mudslides, only gets seventy-eight cents back for every tax dollar they contribute - FEMA included. Arguing "fair shares" of FEMA "insurance" is specious. Would FEMA money be better spent disallowing people from rebuilding in highly disaster-prone areas?
No, it wouldn't. FEMA is not
, as characterized, "a type of federal insurance policy". It was not established to address any specific type of disaster (and, as it has been subsumed by the DHS, is now also geared toward relief in the event of terrorist attacks). It was certainly not established to determine where people should or should not live. It was established to provide emergency assistance for those afflicted with tragedy - any tragedy. Even disaster-prone welfare states like Louisiana and Mississippi should not be penalized because of geography
. Suggesting that a humanitarian relief program like FEMA should be prejudicial on any
grounds is downright perverse.