Send dollars, and include the tax code as kindling

More federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Consider:

Democratic lawmakers are urging the Bush administration to increase funding for a $2 billion energy program to help the poor pay heating bills expected to increase about 47 percent this winter.

The energy assistance program helps low-income families, primarily the elderly and disabled, pay utility bills – about one-third of the total bill, on average. The money is disbursed through block grants to the states.

I don’t know much about this, but here’s a suggestion: let the states determine their needs and tax their citizens accordingly (with their consent through representation, of course). It’s brilliant! Maybe I can win $100,000.

But without federal intervention, millions will freeze to death this winter. You know, because stuff like this never happens anywhere else in America without federal intervention:

Stephen Nocilla, director of Catholic Social Services in Scranton, Pa., said he’s worried about the impact of higher energy prices on poor families in Northeast Pennsylvania. He’s making plans with local officials to open up more emergency shelters this winter.

“This is a life-and-death situation,” Nocilla said. “People are going to have to make some very difficult choices.”

If people like Senator Kerry and others care so much about helping poor families heat their homes this winter, and in the future, wouldn’t it make more sense to allow states and localities to determine who needs help? If nothing else, sending the money from taxpayer to state/local government to needy families/utilities is more efficient than sending the money from taxpayer to IRS to Department of Energy to State/local government to needy families/utilities. That would heat the same number of homes for fewer dollars. I’m just saying, I think our founding fathers were on to something.

Post Script: Like the last entry, this in no way endorses the idea that government intervention is the best way to handle this essential task. It may or may not be, and given the very real possibility of a significant number of deaths in colder areas, there is a benefit potentially sufficient to justify it. But if government should pay, which government is the question. But you figured that out already, so no more disclaimer stuff.