As we traipse merrily into our voting booths, let's revisit the quaint notion that a government ought to be minimally competent.

As we traipse merrily into our voting booths, let’s revisit the quaint notion that a government ought to be minimally competent.

I know, I know – since Ronnie Reagan, we’ve been told that “government is the problem, not the solution.” Well, we’ve learned that this is certainly true when government is placed in the slippery hands of incompetent ideologues who get their government jobs because they hate government and don’t want it to work. Just look at FEMA, the once-proud Federal Emergency Management Agency that’s now been reduced to a cruel joke.

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The defining slogan for FEMA was articulated after Hurricane Katrina by George W: “Heck of a job, Brownie,” he exulted to the incompetent political hack he had appointed to head the relief agency. Brownie is now gone, but FEMA continues to be a model of how not to run government.

In fact, the agency still can’t get the hang of something as straightforward as providing trailer homes for families displaced by floods. It took months for FEMA officials to get trailers to thousands of Katrina victims. Then, the trailers turned out to be contaminated with toxic formaldehyde, which the agency denied at first, then tried to cover up, and still hasn’t resolved.

Now, flood victims in Iowa are getting a dose of FEMA’s patented rudeness. Again, the issue is formaldehyde in trailers. While agency officials acknowledge the problem, they are blaming the victims, asserting that maybe they’re doing dry-cleaning in the trailers! FEMA even claimed that simply cooking in the trailers could elevate formaldehyde levels. Excuse me! Aren’t there trailers that allow families to cook without getting formaldehyde poisoning? At least the Iowans have trailers. In Texas, six weeks after Hurricane Ike, more than 3,000 trailers are still needed for families whose homes are gone – but FEMA has delivered only 200.

We’re about to get a new government, and one of its first jobs will be to give us a government that works again.

“Officials: FEMA too slow with Ike aid,” Austin American Statesman, October 28, 2008.

“FEMA Blames Residents For High Formaldehyde Levels In Trailers,” www.thinkprogress.org, October 23, 2008.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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