California Democrat wants Trump to send FEMA to help with the Oroville Dam

A Bay Area friend who campaigned for Bernie in the primary and then flew to Ohio as a volunteer for Hillary before the general election just called. He is concerned that Donald Trump won’t send FEMA to help out with any issues that arise from the failure of the Oroville Dam. He had previously advocated for California to secede and thus place itself beyond the reach of the Trump Dictatorship (TM).

The Wikipedia page on the dam says

Built by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), Oroville Dam is one of the key features of the California State Water Project (SWP), one of two major projects passed that set up California’s statewide water system.

If the state could build the dam to begin with and now has a population of 39 million people and a state government budget of over $211 billion (2015 data; it grew 16.5 percent over 2014), why do they need the Great Father in Washington to come to their rescue? And if in fact they can’t handle this problem, how would the pro-secession folks propose that the 39 million Californians handle more serious problems going forward?

17 thoughts on “California Democrat wants Trump to send FEMA to help with the Oroville Dam

  1. The whole point of secession is that the great father is threatening not to be motherly enough, and that’s intolerable.

  2. Californians pay in to FEMA and have every reason to expect FEMA to be there for them when needed. Emergency response and disaster recovery are areas where it does make sense for the Great Father in Washington to backstop the states because when it comes to risk pools bigger is better (I have no idea whether what has happened so far with the Oroville Dam warrants or does not warrant a FEMA response).

    President Trump has made noises about politicizing payouts from programs like FEMA (but not FEMA as far as I know; in fact he’s already made a Federal disaster declaration for blue state Oregon) so it is not a completely absurd thing to worry about. I’m not particularly worried though. it isn’t really the kind of thing one says out loud if one is really intent on doing it and at the moment President Trump doesn’t seem to have effective enough control over the levers of government to actually pull it off even if he did.

    California secession is inconsistent with asking for FEMA aid? Well yes, but then California secession is inconsistent with any serious discussion of government policy.

    >The whole point of secession is that the great father
    >is threatening not to be motherly enough, and
    >that’s intolerable.

    Secession is a (stupid) way of highlighting that California’s representation in the electoral college is not proportional to its population, contribution to the country’s economy, or Federal tax receipts.

  3. And yet the Great Bear drums up secession anytime it disagrees with the Great Father, which is what Filip’s post is about.

  4. Neal: The FEMA budget is about $14 billion, according to Google. says that California pays a low 16.6 percent of “gross state product” (like GDP), compared to 23 percent here in Massachusetts or a shocking 32 percent in Minnesota(!). That works out to about 12 percent of federal tax collections. So California is paying about $1.7 billion into FEMA. That’s pretty small compared to California’s own state government budget.

    Should California expect to get this $1.7 billion back somehow? What about helping the less fortunate? Californians are wealthier than people in some other states. If reducing inequality is the goal, wouldn’t it make sense for California to take care of its own water-, fire-, and dam-related issues and thus preserve FEMA’s limited resources for the neediest states?

  5. If cifornia became independent would they not be able to spend money that tax payers are currently sending to Washington for such projects? I am a Californian and totally against the secession foolishness for the record

  6. >Should California expect to get this $1.7 billion back somehow?

    California should hope it never needs it back, of course.

  7. Think of FEMA as being like an insurance company that insures houses or cars. The whole country pays to support it, hoping that it won’t be needed. If an unfortunate incident occurs, the insurance customer files a claim. Whether the customer can pay for his own repairs is irrelevant, as is whether other customers may be less prosperous.

  8. By that logic, California should cease accepting Federal highway funds, postal service, Amtrak, defense protection, weather forecasting, trade agreements, port services, …

    And Ayn Rand should have refused to accept Medicare and Social Security payments.

    If you contribute to the kitty, you are a member of the eligible class.

    California has more than contributed to all Federal kitties.

  9. Vince, Andrew: See and

    Apparently the California state government didn’t want to pay to line the emergency spillway with concrete back in 2005. So the current situation was effectively created by the California state government. Why should taxpayers in lower income states such as Alabama, Kentucky, and New Mexico work extra hours to pay taxes to insulate comparatively wealthy Californians from the costs of their decision? Isn’t that the opposite of what California Democrats voted for in the 2016 election? (see also ; was this an “unfortunate incident” as characterized by Vince or Californians behaving recklessly because they knew that Walmart workers in the Rust Belt would pay for any damage?)

  10. philg: Do the existing criteria for FEMA Disaster Declarations include consideration of the “culpability” of state and local governments? If not, are you suggesting adding this factor to the decision making process for all states or only for California?

  11. was this an “unfortunate incident” as characterized by Vince or Californians behaving recklessly because they knew that Walmart workers in the Rust Belt would pay for any damage?

    It’s highly unlikely. I saw in the news that one elderly gentleman nearly died when his car was trapped in water. There are losses involved that are more than economic. The Mercury News article states that FERC, a federal agency, didn’t see a need to change the dam. It’s unlikely that FERC was trying to shift expenses from the state government to the federal government.

    Also, don’t forget Mitt Romney’s claim 4½ years ago that 47% of the population pay no federal income tax. It’s quite likely that those Walmart workers pay little or no tax.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that the assumption that California is a rich state is not quite true. There is a statistic that adjusts the poverty rate by the cost of living in each state. Due to high price of housing in California, it actually has the highest poverty rate by that measure.

  12. @philg (from “Big Storm Calls For Big Government”):

    >Russil: Does a larger insurance pool reduce the
    >variance of losses in any given year? Of course.
    >But if that reduction in variance were critical
    >there would not be more than one insurance
    >company in the world. Nobody with a smaller risk
    >pool would be able to compete. It would seem
    >that there are other factors that make it undesirable
    >to have one enormous monopoly provider of
    >insurance, e.g., administration costs.

    In point of fact most insured risk is ultimately carried by a small number of huge reinsurance companies. This demonstrates that size does produce the competitive advantage the argument attempts to deny by defining an unrealistic criteria for evidence of its presence. One can even discern the hazy analog to this private structure in our Federal system. FEMA plays the part of reinsurance companies pooling larger risks. The states are analogous to insurance companies pooling smaller risks and handling the more administration heavy customer service tasks.

    I have no doubt that one could -theoretically- devise a much more efficient governmental disaster response and recovery system than our present system. I would even believe it is possible to move the real world system closer to some theoretical optimum. However, if you are arguing that there is no Federal role for U.S. governmental disaster response and recovery, I don’t think you’ve made a convincing case in this post nor the two posts you link to in comment #11.

  13. As for the psychology, this seems like a good moment for a leisurely re-read of Sylvia Plath.

    I have always been scared of you,
    With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
    And your neat mustache
    And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
    Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——

    Not God but a swastika
    So black no sky could squeak through.
    Every woman adores a Fascist,
    The boot in the face, the brute
    Brute heart of a brute like you.

    You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
    In the picture I have of you,
    A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
    But no less a devil for that, no not
    Any less the black man who

    Bit my pretty red heart in two.
    I was ten when they buried you.
    At twenty I tried to die
    And get back, back, back to you.
    I thought even the bones would do.

  14. Looks like Kalifonia will now need to build a wall too! This one will prevent water from ruining the state.

  15. California could go it alone. Greece is only 11 million and has survived for 2500 years. Starting another Olympics would be a mistake to avoid.

  16. philg – perhaps if someone with any credibility had brought it up, rather than the usual “organizations that cry wolf” like “the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League”, someone would have done something.

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