Politicians drop the ball, again

Media sycophants have been tripping all over themselves heaping praise on Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo for their handling of tropical storm Irene.  Yes, Irene turned into a tropical storm before it hit the New Jersey shore, a fact that should have known by the “Big Three” hours before they dominated the airwaves with their dire warnings about the impending Apocalypse in New York and New Jersey.  

Therefore, if their staffs misled the Big Three or if the Big Three ignored the evidence that Irene was going to be a much less devastating event at the Jersey shore and in New York City, why have they not issued an apology to the millions of people who were evacuated unnecessarily? 

In addition, despite the readily available evidence that Irene was going to hit with less than hurricane force winds, Governor Christie closed the Garden State Parkway southbound Friday evening wrecking havoc on rush hour traffic, and tourists abandoned the Jersey shore causing untold lost business during one of the busiest weekends of the year.  In New York City Mayor Bloomberg took the unprecedented step of halting subway and bus service at noon on Saturday making the Big Apple look like a ghost town. 

The post-Katrina mentality of our “protectors” is another example of how government officials drop the ball on just about everything they do, from education to the infrastructure and to storm preparedness.  Because we are living in the age of the command and control, government officials love to issue commands to show they are in “charge” of the people’s safety, and that they know what is best for us because after all the people elected them to be their guardians in a time of “crisis.” 

When data are so cavalierly ignored or rejected by the highest levels of state and local government, the conspiracy theorists come out of the woodwork.   Were the evacuation orders a “test run” of future command and control operations?  Will the federal government invoke marital law to “protect” us from a financial debacle or major terrorist attacks?  Incompetence breeds paranoia.

The lesson of “disaster” preparedness is that all available data should be presented to the people so they can make appropriate plans to deal with their safety.  Because the government “owns” and manages the roads and highways, officials believe they have the right to evacuate a portion of the population even though the available evidence revealed that such an act was unwarranted last weekend. 

If a major hurricane is on its way, families would have to make the choice to stay in their homes or evacuate to higher ground.  If they stay in their homes, they should bear the costs of any rescue operations; say $10,000 or more for being rescued.  Families would then have to weigh the costs of risking their well-being and the cost of being saved with the cost of moving to a safer location.  However, in the one-size fits all approach to everything government engages in, the political class overreaches.   

Government overreaching is nothing new in our society.  Whether in nation building overseas and conducting a “war on terror” that has cost the American people trillions of dollars to the Ponzi schemes here at home that is supposed to bring security to seniors to  the unfunded liabilities of state pension plans, the federal government and many state governments are financial basket cases. 

The lesson of tropical storm Irene may be:  how do you know if a politician is lying? See if his lips are moving.  

Murray Sabrin is professor of finance at Ramapo College of New Jersey and blogs at http://www.MurraySabrin.com.  

 

"Sit down and shut up!"
—Gov. Chris Christie, to a Hurricane Sandy heckler