Monday, October 29, 2012

Why your voting matters in November - Emergency Mitt Edition *UPDATED*

As I write the east coast prepares for a likely battering from it is being called a "frankenstorm." (And the news media sighed, and knew it was love.) Ah, Sandy. (Que a Grease reference, if you got one.)

The government is at work as a result. FEMA is preparing. The states are gearing up. And local services are on the move. It is a nice reminder of just why we bother with this whole society/civilization thing in the first place.

But as we brace to see what the forces of nature have in mind for us this time around, it is worth remembering just how conservatives have been looking at and using emergency services in the United States, in particular FEMA.

You can look to earlier in the year when Mitt Romney was still trying to become the nominee:

He looked at the idea of a national disaster relief program, FEMA, and said it was just better to shunt it down to the states. Or better, turn it over to business.

How does this work then? Each states struggles to support it's own disaster situations and tries to recover as best it can, on it's own. As it is, particularly in events like Katrina, the states are in desperate need for federal aid to get running again. But, for Mitt Romney, that's just a money loser. Bye, Louisiana, we have to cut you off. It is a stunningly simplistic and ill-conceived approach to governance.

And, hand it over to business? What corporate force will we be giving this power to? How much will they be charging people who's businesses and homes have been wiped from the map for a box of crackers and a branded towel?

FEMA is EXACTLY the kind of thing the government is made to do. But for conservatives, that is a bad thing. It makes government look good, it makes people's lives better (after tragedy), so it is a hinderance to the conservative agenda.

Mitt Romney wanted us to ponder what we should keep in a federal budget. FEMA is not on his list of keepers (with plenty of other vital services). It should give us all pause.

Now, his campaign is trying to claim that he won't do that, kind of:
"Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters," the Romney official said.

Romney says it is better to clear out this expense from the federal budget. So he wants to put it on the states to deal with and pay for. But he wants to be sure responders have the best resources and assistance to work...Which means it would be in the stay in the federal budget? So it will still be an expense problem. Or he will cut paying out, and that leaves states already struggling economically exceedingly vulnerable. Which answer is Romney's? Does any of this really make sense? ...Let's be honest, I doubt Mitt Romney even knows, or cares if it does. But these are lives and livelihoods he's playing with.

What Mitt has said quite clearly is that he will put in an across the board 5% cut, that will hit FEMA, come inauguration (If it comes to that.). It sounds good at a podium, so he promises it. What will be left when he's done?

Romney's stance also follows on a consistent conservative attack on FEMA and emergency preparedness. This includes the House Republican "success" in cutting 43% from grants FEMA gave to deal with preparation for disaster. Also, there's Eric Cantor's leadership to try and stymie FEMA disaster relief funding in the wake of disasters, to use as leverage to force cuts in government. (He also, oddly, pushed for aid to his own district, not very interested in cost offsets then. Funny, hmm?)

Eric Cantor:
"When a family is struck with tragedy -- like the family of Joplin ... let's say if they had $10,000 set aside to do something else with, to buy a new car ... and then they were struck with a sick member of the family or something, and needed to take that money to apply it to that, that's what they would do, because families don't have unlimited money. And, really, neither does the federal government."
There are few lazier economic arguments than trying to compare a family budget to a national economy. Yes, you can analogize. But only so far. They ARE NOT the same thing. A family cannot print money. A family cannot just make use of debt. And Cantor wants to talk about being wise about not buying a new car. Yet the man won't save a penny on forgoing new private planes and motorboats. (See, I can make B.S. analogies to family as well.) It's a sad conservative weakness. But the family analogy sounds nice, and if not thought on too hard it makes sense. If you actually study economics you realize though, the comparison is silly rhetoric.

But understand, this stupid comparison is how Cantor and the GOP think. To pay for Grandma to get a new house after the quake, they will pull you out of school and put the dog to sleep, but dad's still getting his new boat.

You can add to Romney and the rest of the GOP's games with numbers and lives, Paul Ryan's own game of maths. As he has tried to create his own vision of a proper conservative budget, he has put in vague yet massive cuts to spending which will have to include FEMA services. And he's made clear funding, post-disaster, aid would only be paid for if another part of the budget was axed to pay for it. So, if Atlanta floods, no new naval cruiser class...Sorry, that'd never happen. No heating allowance for grandma? That Romney/Ryan would sign off on. 

You'd hope they'd have more sense on this. But they seem only to see "big government" standing in their way. And that can't be allowed. So, look forward to Halliburton Luxury Emergency Services, and Koch Industrial Disaster Recovery. Because, conservatives love to give you who is going to gouge you on a basic survival support.

Now, some are trying to offer up defenses of what Romney has been saying, like David Frum:

Yes. He was evading the question. Why? Because he knew clearly answering it would make him look bad? Because trying to give a more populace answer would tick off the party base? Both of those answers?

What should we do with FEMA? Make it work. Simple answer. But that is not what the GOP plans. From Cantor to Ryan to Romney, FEMA is DOA in their eyes.

And while Frum wants to play at the dream of a Moderate Mitt. They both are part of a party and ideology that has made it clear they do not see disaster relief this way. Hell, Mitt seems to clearly see it as a way for him or his friends to make a tidy profit, off the suffering and tragedy of Americans.

That just is not right.

We, the American People, deserve far better than this lot.


Let's not forget what Mitt Romney has said on our other emergency workers, the police.

Greg Sergeant:
... Per CNN:  
Romney said of Obama, “he wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” 

Cut. That is always the Go To answer for Mitt Romney. Just cut it. When he became governor that is all he thought of. Education? Cut it. Hospitals? Cut them. Taxes? DEFINITELY, cut them.

And, as governor, when they had a flood, and the legislature wanted to invest to prevent flooding destruction in the future, Mitt said NO. He vetoed. That was his reaction. Sorry about what happen to Peabody, but he isn't going to spend millions to prevent some hypothetical future flood.

That is how Mitt Romney sees things. Of course, after days of dithering, Mitt wants to play nice. Of course he would support FEMA, he says now. But what of the waste of it? What of the immortality of it? He doesn't want it around. And, like with social security, medicare, and the rest, he'll try to sluff it onto states to pay for when he can. And, if he can, he'll just hand it over to corporate friends.

And what about repairs and federal investment prevention after events? Peabody, MA says it all. He is going to fight paying out and investing, like an insurance company trying to dodge a claim from a customer.

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