I’m so discouraged

FEMA Knew Of Toxic Gas In Trailers – washingtonpost.com

I don’t know if I’ve said it before (here), so I’ll say it now just in case: sometimes I can’t help but wonder if conservatives in government sabotage their agencies and programs on purpose… in order to prove their point that “less government is better government.”

Think about it. In a perverse way, shrinking government can lead to all kinds of examples of folly… which becomes fodder for the call to shrink government more.

(Personal note: I was really disappointed that “fodder” did not appear in the OSX dictionary application.)

I can’t help but wonder if this article in the Washington Post (the link at the top of this entry) is an example. FEMA is now synonymous for mismanagement. A good number of people will see this article and conclude that this is more evidence that government is good for nothing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency since early 2006 has suppressed warnings from its own field workers about health problems experienced by hurricane victims living in government-provided trailers with levels of a toxic chemical 75 times the recommended maximum for U.S. workers, congressional lawmakers said yesterday.

One man in Slidell, La., was found dead in his trailer on June 27, 2006, after complaining about the formaldehyde fumes. In a conference call about the death, 28 officials from six agencies recommended that the circumstances be investigated and trailer air quality be subjected to independent testing. But FEMA lawyers rejected the suggestions, with one, Adrian Sevier, cautioning that further investigation not approved by lawyers “could seriously undermine the Agency’s position” in litigation.

Three trailer residents who testified before the panel described frequent nosebleeds, respiratory problems and mysterious mouth and nasal tumors that they or family members had suffered. They also said veterinarians and pediatricians had warned that their pets and children may be experiencing formaldehyde-related symptoms…. “We have lost a great deal through our dealings with FEMA, not the least of which is our faith in government,” said Paul Stewart, a former Army officer in Mississippi.

I hope this serves as another anchor around George’s neck, rather than an indictment of public service. With so little oversight, regulation, or support, the private sector often does no better.

Both my wife and I work for the state. My wife’s department doesn’t have the money to buy desks. They’ve got drawers that don’t open and chairs that are older than many of the trees in my yard. Several departments have been known to lease abandoned retail space, have problems with water leaks, and have working conditions that quite possibly wouldn’t be legal in the private sector.

Here’s a fun fact for you: OSHA, the “Occupational Safety and Health Act” specifically does NOT have jurisdiction over state employees. The Feds regulate private sector working conditions, and encourage state governments to create their own oversight office to protect state employees. Many states do just that, with programs that are approved by the Feds. Florida isn’t one of them.

So if you wonder why government doesn’t work at times, or you whine about all the taxes you pay, ask yourself if you’re getting what you pay for. Whether you realize it or not, you’re making it really hard for those who care… keep caring.

Give the gift of words.