Monday, May 19, 2008

Someone in Washington Gets It (Well, Sort Of)

Three cheers for Missouri Senator Kit Bond. Touring the southwestern corner of his state, which was recently ravaged by a killer tornado, the Senator struck a blow for common sense. When a reporter asked if the federal government should buy weather radios for everyone, Mr. Bond (correctly) described the idea as pure hogwash:

"At some point, you've got to take some responsibility. The federal federal government, unless you're in need, is not going to buy your lunch for you; it's not going to buy your TV set, and a weather radio is probably something a provident, responsible family should do," said Senator Bond.

"We're not going to go out and buy everybody a radio -- come on," said Bond.

Mr. Bond's Democratic colleague, Claire McCaskill, offered a more calculated response, suggesting the government's primary responsibility is funding the National Weather Service:

The important thing is to make sure they have the accurate information on there. We do fund the National Weather Service, make sure they have the experts, the satellite photographs," McCaskill said.

Having lived in Tornado Alley (off an on) for decades, we can only endorse Senator Bond's remarks. The ultimate responsibility of keeping someone safe rests with the individual, and there's no excuse for not making the necessary preparations. A NOAA weather radio is a wise investment for any individual (or family), and they're quite affordable. A good-quality model (like the Midland WR-300) lists for under $50 on Amazon, and they're often cheaper at local retailers.

Additionally, a number of broadcast outlets offer weather updates for their audience, delivering watches and warnings via internet or cell phone for a modest fee, or in many cases for free. Between a weather radio and other alert sources, residents in tornado-prone areas have plenty of options for getting the information they need to survive the storm.

If they don't...well, the gene pool always needs a little flushing. As Senator Bond suggests, the idea of Uncle Sam buying everyone a weather radio is simply ludicrous. But, we're also reminded that the federal government is subsidizing TV converter boxes, in preparation for the switch to digital broadcasting in 2009.

By that standard, it's no wonder that some want the feds to buy an alert radio for every home. And why not throw in a giant, plasma-screen TV to boot? Severe weather coverage looks so much better in HD.

As for Senator Bond, how long will it be until some left-wing pundit or blogger describes his weather radio comments as "mean-spirited" or "heartless?" We'll give him credit for getting it right, but in fairness, we've got to ask: did he support the bill that provides the converter box subsidy?

Mr. Bond is correct in noting there ought to be limits to federal largesse. But those limits should extend well beyond the notion of free weather radios.


GoHskrs said...

Unfortunately, not all the Republicans trust the people they represent to make good decisions about weather warnings. Last year, an Alabama congresscritter (R) tried to mandate weather radios in all new mobile homes. I thought it was a dumb idea then, and it has not improved with age.

Thankfully, the bill only got House approval, but didn't make it out of the Senate. However, Indiana went ahead and passed their own weather radio requirement -- no word on whether the occupants are required to keep the radio plugged in, or who will subsidize the purchase of batteries for these radios in case there's a power outage.

Unknown said...

Gohskrs--Thanks for the update. If Mr. Obama wins the White House, I'm sure that all those problems will be solved. Not only will Uncle Sam hand out weather radios for all Americans, but we'll get those big-screen TVs for watching weather coverage, and storm shelters for anyone that might be threatened by a tornado.

I vaguely remember the House bill; I was unaware that Indiana had passed their own weather radio bill.

I wonder: can Congress (or a state legislature) pass a bill that actually requires someone to pay attention to weather warnings and act on them?

GoHskrs said...

For what it's worth, I'm not crazy about the digital TV converter box summary, either.

American taxpayer dollars -- the one inexhaustible resource left in the world ...

davod said...

If Mr. Obama wins the White House you will be anle to get the weather update from the same large movie screen every street will have for listening to El Supremos daily intructions.

Unknown said...

The central difference between weather radios and TV converter boxes is that the government is mandating that analog broadcasts be stopped. There is no reason that somebody who is perfectly happy with their analog TV should have to buy a new one because of the governments decision. Tornadoes have always been and always will be. There is a reason its called tornado alley.