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The Hands on the Wheel
Author: BobR    Date: 2012-10-31 11:56:00

UPDATED 12:30 PM EDT to add link at bottom...

It was 2004. Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts. Heavy rains caused flooding in his state, which required him to request Federal Disaster relief funds. Later that year, the Massachusetts legislature passed a proposal to allocate $5.7M in state funds for a flood protection project. Then-Governor Romney vetoed it. In 2006, the town of Peabody was flooded again. Local officials blamed Romney for vetoing the funds that could've prevented it.

Fast forward to the current presidential race. Last year in June during the seemingly never-ending Republican primary debates, candidate Romney was asked whether FEMA should be eliminated. He was emphatic in his answer:
"Absolutely," he said. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?"
"We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids," Romney replied. "It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all."
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent adds: "There’s another nugget here worth highlighting, though. In that appearance, Romney also suggested it would be 'even better' to send any and all responsibilities of the federal government 'to the private sector,' disaster response included. So: Romney essentially favored privatizing disaster response."

Earlier this year, he continued to push the austerity idea further when he said America doesn't need any more firemen, policemen or teachers.

Of course - that was "Pre-Sandy". Now he is desperately trying to shake the etch-a-sketch and make people forget that Romney cares more about money than people.

His first move was to flip-flop on his position:
"Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. "As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."


His next move was to avoid any questions on his previous positions:
Mitt Romney repeatedly ignored questions about his position on federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at an event for storm victims Tuesday.
Several others again asked Romney whether he would eliminate FEMA.
"Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?" one asked.
Romney ignored the reporters' queries and continued loading up the truck. Earlier, during the event, he ignored similar queries.

On this particular topic, it is useful to compare the respective FEMA budget cuts planned by the Romney/Ryan team, and by President Obama:
The president has proposed cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 2013 that would reduce overall funding by about 3 percent, with $1 billion trimmed from the Disaster Relief Fund but more money given to state and local programs.
An administration official says the drop reflects decreasing tail-costs from Hurricane Katrina and stresses that the 2013 request is $500 million beyond the disaster fund’s anticipated needs, according to a Congressional formula based on the cost of disaster aid.
Romney and Ryan (in his House budget) also propose deep cuts to domestic spending. While Ryan doesn’t single out FEMA for cuts, he doesn’t exempt it either, suggesting that the agency could still be at risk for cutbacks under the House GOP.

The Ryan budget for 2013 would cut non-defense discretionary spending by 22 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. About one-third of that discretionary spending goes to state and local governments to support activities that include disaster relief.

Ryan’s 2013 budget doesn’t go into much detail about how the big domestic cuts would be distributed, so it doesn’t specify whether FEMA and its disaster fund would be spared. But if they are spared, then other programs in the non-defense discretionary category would have to be cut by more than 22 percent.

So how is Romney trying to deflect from all of this historical record that shows he considers emergency preparedness and disaster response and relief an unaffordable luxury? By transparently labeling a campaign rally as a disaster relief fundraiser. The problem is that Romney has no clue how disaster relief works. The Red Cross does not take donations of food or blankets. They specifically ask for money that they can spend on things they need as they need them. Mitt asked people attending his ralley fundraiser to bring canned food. So where is the food going and how is it getting there? Initially, it was going to swing state Virginia, but it's still not clear. What IS clear is how it's getting there: via his campaign bus. Yes, candidate Romney is planning to drive his campaign apparatus into the middle of a disaster relief effort to hand out canned food (with plenty of cameras in tow, no doubt).

The problem of course is the magnitude of the problem. With parts of NY and NJ looking like post-Katrian New Orleans, the magnitude of the disaster is hard for most people to comprehend, and Romney is not one to have much imagination when it comes to the struggles of the average American. Disasters like this should not be politicized by those in power, but Romney in trying to disguise a campaign stop as a disaster relief effort has done just that. He also showed his hand by only calling Republican governors. He also tried to score a photo-op with NJ Governor Chris Christie, but to Christie's credit, he shot it down while praising President Obama's response.

There are others trying to imply that President Obama's response is an attempt to distract from bad publicity over the attacks in Libya (former Bush-era FEMA "director" Brownie is just one. Check FOX "News" for more of the same). This, of course, is the Republicans' attempts to distract the electorate from President Obama's awesome leadership during this crisis. Chris Christie is not playing ball in this game, and will likely create long-term problems for him politically. But the reality is that this is textbook example of when and how Big Government works and works well when it's in the right hands. We (and the people of New Orleans) know how badly it worked in the hands of Bush. Now we see what good governance looks like. This is why it's important to keep government in these same hands for another 4 years. People's lives literally depend on it.

UPDATE (12:30 PM EDT): Romney is doubling-down on photo op. He is trying to make political points from the pain and suffering of others. What a scumbag.

68 comments (Latest Comment: 11/01/2012 02:05:15 by Will in Chicago)
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