South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard talks about self-reliance a lot. Montana state legislator Tom Burnett, Republican from Bozeman, takes self-reliance very seriously. He says Missouri River flood victims should turn down FEMA assistance and do their own repairs:
In 1970, Bear Creek flooded, ripping out our family's bridge and the bridges of a dozen of our neighbors. A state official proclaimed Bear Canyon a disaster area. Money began flowing, other peoples' money. The FEMA worker came around with his clipboard. He had a talk with Dad and Mom. He offered to pay for fixing the damage with federal taxpayer funds. I remember the check he offered was for about $2,500.
Dad had a chainsaw. He had standing timber. He had tools and know-how. He knew how to mix concrete. He had an independent spirit. He and Mom would rather not take handouts. They felt squeamish about burdening others.
They refused the handout. They told the FEMA worker they would rebuild the bridge with their own funds and labor. It would have been a lot easier to take the money and call a contractor. But it would have clipped their independence. Theirs was the wise, dignified choice [Tom Burnett, "Flooding and Independence," blog, 2011.06.02].
There you have it, Dakota Dunes, Fort Pierre, and the rest of you folks hip deep in Big Mo. Kick those National Guardsmen off your properties and fill your own sandbags. Buy your own dump trucks and skidsteers. Build your own levees. When the water recedes, fire up the chainsaw, chop down your own trees, hew your own boards, and build your own garage from scratch.
And when you're done, start schooling your own kids, plowing your own highway, and catching and incarcerating your own terrorists. School and roads and law enforcement are handouts just like flood assistance, and by gum, handouts "are the root of our nation's spending and debt problems."
I'm willing to assume that Rep. Burnett's paean to his parents' self-reliance is not a call to completely dismantle government and society. However, Rep. Burnett might want to do a better job of delineating groveling dependence and nation-wrecking handouts from the reasonable social cooperation that makes civilization preferable to the state of nature.
p.s.: David Lias reminds us what Fort Pierre looked like before the government started meddling with the Missouri and ruining our dignity and independence with things like dams:
pp.s.: Burnett speaks of a FEMA worker offering his folks money in 1970. Never mind that FEMA didn't exist until 1979.
Update 21:51 CDT: ppp.s: Emergency crews are ferrying groceries and medicine to folks in Roundup, Montana, where the Musselshell River has washed out all the roads to over 300 rural folks. I guess Burnett would tell them to build their own boats.