The Biden administration has announced that they’re gonna do what sounds like the bare minimum to help victims in Maui after the recent wildfires with the government offering $700 to victims per household. Victims are now telling their stories about how they’ve waited for days and for help to arrive with provisions running out. Now a federal government that almost seems angry about having to help. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: The Biden administration has announced that they’re gonna do what sounds like the bare minimum to help victims in Maui after the recent wildfires with the government offering $700 to victims per household. Victims are now telling their stories about how they’ve waited for days and for help to arrive with provisions running out. Now a federal government that almost seems angry about having to help. I’ve got Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins with me to talk about this. We’re gonna follow this story as it goes. It’s every day’s a new angle on this. What is your take? When I looked at this, I realized that we have a situation to where in the Covid when we had to give people some help, I think it was like $2,800 per household for a couple, and then $1,400 per each dependent. This is far worse.

Farron Cousins: Right. And you’re not talking about spending hundreds of billions of dollars to do it either. We’re talking about residents of one area who desperate, who lost everything. I mean, this is not an over exaggeration to say these people lost everything. And to say that the government we’re gonna give you a few hundred dollars for your entire household.

Mike Papantonio: Right.

Farron Cousins: These people, it will be years before they can rebuild homes. I mean, it’s absolutely almost disgusting is the word I’d use.

Mike Papantonio: You know, I hate to compare, but we’ve had to live through so many hurricanes and we have a sense of how bad it is. This is worse. I mean, I’ve been through the worst hurricanes. You have too. The aftermath is horrible. Where we look around and everything’s devastated. But this has a feeling even worse than anything I think we’ve been through. As I look at this, there was this belief that you hear these people report, there’s a belief that surely government is gonna be there to help us. Now that’s important because now we’re talking about a government story. They’re gonna give ’em $700. That $700 won’t do anything for these folks.

But coming out of, I remember a couple of hurricanes where I’m saying, well, there’s gotta be some leadership, and there was a total leadership paralysis. I see that same thing happening here. Virtually no rehearsed plan. You had this agonizing, slow response. That’s how this feels on a federal level. I mean, when they asked Biden, he’s under a, he’s on the beach. What did he say? No comment.

Farron Cousins: Yeah. No comment, no comment.

Mike Papantonio: No comment. By that time, I think 90 people had died. No comment. And I think that’s what these people have gotta feel some frustration about, man. I’m telling you, you’ve got these, you’ve got random chaos. And we’ve seen it, we have seen that in hurricanes, but I get the sense that this is really worse. This random chaos where there’s no housing, there’s no food, there’s no water, and you’re waiting for somebody to show up to help. Right?

Farron Cousins: You are. And one of the things that makes it so difficult too, is obviously the distance that Hawaii is from the mainland here. And I think that’s one of the reasons why Biden’s able to say, ah, no comment. Right? Even though it’s a United States state, it’s far off there in the Pacific. You can’t drive through there. You can’t see it traveling the country, just like with Puerto Rico, all the hurricanes that have devastated there. You know, the financial crimes that took place. Well, it’s kind of way off in the ocean. We don’t really pay attention.

Mike Papantonio: To me, that statement is just a metaphor for what these people are facing all the time. I mean, from the minute this happened, there were stories of elderly in the street, couldn’t get up and walk. Had to be picked up to be able to walk. But it was this, if you look at it during the worst hurricanes we saw, we saw something that looked like almost a physiological shock. You would talk to people, their house was leveled. They had the shirt on their back. They knew their job was gone. They knew their business that had been there for three generations was destroyed and probably wouldn’t even recover. Add to that, all the uglies that are happening here. You’ve got Wall Street coming in and they’re like carpet baggers. They’re like vultures. These people have been there generations, man.

They’ve had these businesses for generations. They’ve had these homes for generations. They’ve had these same neighbors, the same family there. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve been there several times. It’s a beautiful little place. But part of the beauty of the place is it’s the people, you know. And I just feel like the handling, that statement I can’t get out of my head. I think he said, no comment. We will look at it later. And the only reason I raise it, and the reason I think it’s important, is because it’s a metaphor for what’s happening to these people. I mean, day after day.

Farron Cousins: Yeah. And even still, he hasn’t been there. They’ve announced plans, oh, we’re probably gonna, we’re gonna try to make it out there Monday if we can. I mean, especially for a guy that’s campaigning to be president. These are the moments where a president can either step up or show that they’re not up to the task. Trump with Puerto Rico, he goes down there and he is tossing paper towels to people who lost their lives. Obama with the BP oil spill. He does a press conference, tell me who’s ass to kick and then he kicks no asses. Bush with Katrina.

Mike Papantonio: Flew over, flew over. Bush literally, we were there. Katrina was awful. I mean, again, I don’t think it was as bad as this. I didn’t find myself having to walk out, these people were having to go to the water to get away from the fire. People were saying we were running for our lives. And I just think the overall impact has just been so slighted by government from the very top to the local government here.

Farron Cousins: Yeah. Absolutely. We’re hearing stories from the victims saying, listen, not only are we waiting for the federal response, but the local response. You know, we’ve been out of food and water for several days, many of them are reporting now. The provisions have burned up. We don’t have anything.

Mike Papantonio: But Farron, there’s an airport right down the road. There’s access to the water. You can have water shipped in, you can have it flown in. You can have food. That’s happening now. But as I’m really watching it, you know, FEMA’s there, but I’m watching really more real meaningful stuff taking place from just private individuals. They’re saying, this is just unacceptable. The other thing I’m seeing is we saw with the hurricanes, of course, the idea of parachute lawyers coming in. It was disgusting to me. People that don’t have anything in common with this area. Parachute lawyers from California, New York, all over, all over the country. It was disgusting. And the same thing’s happening here. The Hawaii bar is smart enough to say, if you don’t have a license, you can’t practice here.

And what I love about that is you have some really good, good lawyers in those islands. Now. It’s not just Maui, but Honolulu, all the islands around, they’ve got really talented lawyers. And it’s just like I tell everybody in one of these situations because, it is, hire a local lawyer. Hire somebody that you, they may be in Honolulu, but that’s local there. I mean, for all practical purposes. They may be in Maui, but hire a local lawyer and understand, to me, the Hawaii Bar Association has a great system. Call in and we’ll help you get a lawyer. Now these lawyers might go out and hire experts. We get hired all over the country, literally all over the world. We have cases all over the world in our specialty.

But that can’t happen unless the person goes out and hires a local lawyer that they got a good reputation. You understand who they are. But there’s some great lawyers. We’re working with a guy named Sergio Rufo down there. He’s a huge, huge practice from the standpoint of just quality. And so that’s another thing that really bugs you about it. What else? As I’m talking about this story, I’m just kind of going through a checklist as I’ve watched this. What else comes to your mind?

Farron Cousins: Well, on the whole lawyer issue too, another benefit of the local lawyers there is these are the people who also suffered losses. They’re not just somebody who says, oh, let me, I’m here for the moment. Let me take your case. I’ll work on it. And then they fly 4,000 miles back home and you hear from ’em once every two or three months.

Mike Papantonio: Right.

Farron Cousins: You need somebody where you can walk into their office and say, hey, I haven’t heard from you in a week, not that that would happen, but you know what I mean? Like, you can talk to them face-to-face as frequently as you want.

Mike Papantonio: Well, in Hawaii, Hawaii’s a little different. I mean, somebody on Honolulu, of course, would get to Maui to make sure that there’s that personal interaction.

Farron Cousins: And that they understand it. They know the community. They know the loss suffered. You can’t replicate that.

Mike Papantonio: Right. And then when it comes to saying, okay, well we need help. I mean, we help lawyers all over the country, all all over the world actually. And so, but you gotta start with that local lawyer, I think. You know, to me, kind of to land this discussion, what does Biden, how does he recover from this issue? Does he just say, well, I have FEMA people there. I couldn’t send Kamala Harris there. We didn’t want to get in your way. Does that sell to you, really?

Farron Cousins: It really doesn’t. The moment passed. The moment passed. You cannot recapture it. He could come out tomorrow and be like, listen, we’re gonna give you $5,000 per household per month until you rebuild. And at that point, all it’s gonna do is look like a PR stunt.

Mike Papantonio: What about the Wall Street carpet baggers? Another parachute. The Wall Street carpet baggers. Here’s people, this is their life. Okay. It’s burned to the ground. Not just a structure. It is their life. It’s their family, it’s their relatives, it’s their associations. It’s their memories burned to the ground. Wall Street comes in, hey man, we can pick up some property really cheap here because these people need the money now. What do you say to them? Resist, resist.

Farron Cousins: Yep, that is, you and I are on the same page with that because I’m terrified, because we’ve already had that happening all over the United States.

Mike Papantonio: Oh yeah.

Farron Cousins: You’re BlackRocks your other big equity groups saying, oh, look at that. You’ve got nothing but the shirt on your back. Wouldn’t this check for $200,000 for your waterfront Hawaii, wouldn’t this help you out right now? Don’t give them the time of day. Use whatever language you want to make them go away, but do not fall for their scams because they will snatch your property, jack that price up 8000% and make millions off it.

Mike Papantonio: If you’ve spent any time over there, I’ve spent a little time. You can’t help but love these people. I mean, it’s just, they choose to live. It’s a simple life. It’s a great life. It’s a quality life. And now Wall Street, there’s just something real ugly about Wall Street parachuting in and saying, hey, we’re gonna build big condos here. Thanks for joining me. Okay.

Farron Cousins: Thank you.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.