Anderson Cooper sparred with Congressman Ron Paul about the role of the federal government in disaster relief.
Paul caused a stir last week when he dismissed FEMA as an unnecessary agency that was not needed to help citizens in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Irene. On Tuesday, a clearly skeptical Cooper challenged Paul about his views.
"You say we don't need FEMA," Cooper began. "Why?"
"They don't have a very good record," Paul responded. "...Thorough bureaucracy as a whole, don't do a very good job but FEMA has the worst reputation of almost any of them." He said that the government should "look at how things were handled before we had FEMA."
Cooper responded that FEMA had, despite its many failures, still managed to outperform local officials in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. "If you had left everything up to Louisiana officials during Katrina, probably more people would have died," he said.
"Well, that remains to be seen," Paul said. He then said that FEMA created complacency and dependence in people who took reckless chances with their homes because they knew FEMA would come to help them.
"Go and show me where there was a much worse care before FEMA and I don't think you can give me any of those indications," he said. Cooper pointed out that, before FEMA, the 1900 hurricane in Galveston -- in Paul's Congressional district -- killed 6,000 people (it is still the deadliest hurricane in American history) because the local populace could not afford to pay for a sea wall.
"If FEMA were abolished, wouldn't you be setting the stage for life or death conditions in poor areas of the country?" he asked.
"No," Paul said. "...They survived without FEMA and they did rebuild the city and it was mostly local funds. Probably some state funds. The two then began talking over each other.
"You're saying there is no role the federal government should play," Cooper said. "Let me, let me, let me, let me finish!" Paul responded. He said that the government did have a role to play in performing rescue operations.
"It's endless," he said. "The government will take care of us and we're broke and we're in the midst of this economic crisis which will get a lot worse and not be concerned about it."