"I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and the duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevailing tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people.
The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood."
-- President Grover Cleveland, upon vetoing a bill appropriating money to aid drought-stricken farmers in Texas [February 16, 1887]
There was no disaster relief in the United States prior to the 1930's. The people looked to government to build the roads and deliver the mail, but nobody expected the government to feed them when they were hungry. Government assistance during the Great Depression was intended to be limited, short term, and as much as possible provided the dignity of work for benefits received.
Now every big storm, every large scale fire, every flood, every earthquake sends presidents and politicans rushing to declare disasters and emergencies with promises of generous restitution for any victims.
Is it out of hand? Or does the government do too little? If you think too much, to what extent would you want policies rolled back to pre-New Deal levels? If you think too little, what more would you want the government to do?