You may have heard this old saying: There are no atheists in foxholes.
That aphorism dates back to World War II and means that when the bullets are flying at you and the artillery shells are landing all around you, you will most likely be praying to some supreme deity to save your hide.
A similar saying derives from that one: There are no Libertarians waiting on rooftops to be rescued from floods.
That saying would hit home to any residents of Houston, Texas, who recently huddled on their rooftop hoping that some government agency would come by with a boat or helicopter to rescue them from the floods unleashed by Hurricane Harvey.
For years, I have heard my Libertarian and conservative friends insist that all governments are corrupt and incompetent. We don’t need governments, they contend. If you’ll just get government out of the way and let the free market do its work, all our problems will be solved, they say.
This attitude was most forcibly expressed by Ronald Reagan when he said: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Hurricanes and other natural disasters serve as a useful reminder that there are some things that can best be handled by the people who make up our local, state and federal governments. When the floodwaters are lapping at your feet, the forces of the free market aren’t going to be any help to you.
In the case of Hurricane Harvey, there were quite a few private citizens who got into their jon boats and helped rescue people in danger. Our blessings go out to them for their unselfish acts.
But without the assistance provided by local police and firefighters, emergency medical technicians, National Guardsmen and other government employees, most of the people in peril would have drowned and been washed away.
Hurricanes and natural disasters serve another useful purpose for us: They shine a spotlight on the hypocrites who get elected to public office.
In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit several eastern states and dropped huge quantities of rainfall on them, very similar to the damage done now by Hurricane Harvey. Sandy caused more than $70 billion in property damage and resulted in 40 deaths.
Most of the federal relief funding for Hurricane Sandy was contained in a $50.5 billion spending bill that Congress finally passed early in 2013. Of the 24 Republicans in Texas’ congressional delegation, 23 of them voted against passage of that funding bill, including Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
It should not be a huge surprise to anyone that the members of the Texas congressional delegation, including Cruz and Cornyn, are now seeking federal assistance to help rebuild Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
When Cruz was asked about his hypocritical stance, he replied: “The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork. Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.”
That is a bald-faced lie. The Congressional Research Service issued a comprehensive report on the bill showing that nearly all of its provisions were related to the damage caused by Sandy. Several media organizations fact-checked the legislation and came to the same conclusion.
And when Congress offered an aid package for Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, some of the congressmen from New Jersey and New York, the states that were most affected by Hurricane Sandy, said they would vote for it.
As Hurricane Irma approached, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in all 159 counties and authorizing the call-up of 5,000 members of the National Guard to assist in response and recovery efforts.
I don’t think anyone is going to accuse Deal of “overreaching” his authority by signing that executive order. No rational person is going to say that the money Georgia spends on its response to the hurricane is “pork barrel” spending. Nor should they.
As with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Sandy, this is one of those times when we really need our government to be there.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report; email, firstname.lastname@example.org.