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Hurricane Myths

A Commentary By John Stossel

Hurricane Ian is gone, but the media's myths about hurricanes live on.

Reporters say the federal government must direct disaster response, as if only the feds have the knowledge and money to do it.

"Debate is already growing about how big federal aid must be," says CNN.

Why?! Don't they know that government has no money of its own? That everything federal bureaucrats spend is taken from the rest of us?

They don't think about that.

Federal "disaster relief" is doled out after storms because, as a New York Times headline put it, "A Big Storm Requires Big Government."

But it doesn't.

My video this week debunks four myths about hurricanes.

Myth No. 1: We need the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief.

That's just dumb, given FEMA's history of incompetence.

FEMA once spent millions on bottled water and expensive trailers for housing. Then they just left them on an airfield.

Matt Mayer worked at the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina. He says the federal government was just too bureaucratic to be much help.

"States, locals, communities, neighbors" just do a much better job, Mayer told me.

FEMA fails because, like all government bureaucracies, there's no incentive to spend efficiently. Charities are more flexible, and "they've been doing it for 200 years."

Right now in Florida, while some people wait for FEMA, religious charities help people rebuild.

Myth No. 2: Government must stop greedy businesses from abusing customers.

Some businesses do raise prices when storms approach. Politicians call that "illegal price gouging." This is just dumb, if not cruel.

When storms approach, people rush to buy supplies. If stores don't raise prices, people buy anything they might possibly need, and probably some stuff they won't need. The first shoppers buy extra bottled water, generators, sandbags, etc.

Stores sell out, so only the quickest customers get what they need.

But if stores raise prices for items in demand, fewer people hoard, and more people get what they need. Yes, it's tough on poorer people, but the price boosts give stores extra incentive to restock. Prices quickly come back down.

Banning price increases harms more people.

After Hurricane Katrina, when John Shepperson learned that parts of Mississippi lost power, he bought 19 generators, left the safety of his home and drove 600 miles to the disaster area. He offered to sell his generators for twice what he paid for them. People were eager to buy.

But Mississippi police called that "gouging." They jailed Shepperson and confiscated his generators.

I bet the cops used the generators themselves.

What the law calls "gouging" is just supply and demand. It saves lives.

Myth No. 3: Hurricanes are getting worse.

The media say, "Storms are getting worse because of human caused climate change!" Are these "climate experts" sure it's "human-caused"? All of it? Never mind.

When I showed video of reporters talking about hurricanes getting stronger to the late climatologist Pat Michaels, he shouted, "No, they aren't! Look at all the hurricanes around the planet. We can see them since 1970 because we've got global satellite coverage. We can measure their power ... There is no significant increase." There isn't.

Even our government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration admits, "There is no strong evidence of century-scale increasing trends in U.S. ... major hurricanes."

There may be evidence in the future. But there isn't now. That doesn't stop media fools from saying there is.

Myth No. 4: America must have government flood insurance. After all, private flood insurance costs "too much."

But private insurers charge more for good reason: Homes in flood zones are more likely to flood.

That's why federal flood insurance is a scam and a handout that rips off taxpayers.

I should know. I once built a house near the ocean.

It was a stupid idea. The ocean was a stone's throw away.

Private insurers wanted fat premiums. I couldn't afford that. I wouldn't have built had I not discovered cheap government insurance. Thanks, Uncle Sam!

Ten years later, my house washed away. It was upsetting, but I didn't lose money. You covered my loss.

I won't do it again, but others will.

Until we learn the myths about government "help," we'll keep making the same costly mistakes.

Every Tuesday, John Stossel posts a new video about the battle between government and freedom at JohnStossel.com.


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See Other Commentaries by John Stossel.

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