NYT burns Romney for saying he’d close FEMA, Ryan for trying to gut it

Republicans are feigning outrage after the New York Times slammed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in an op-ed for saying he’d eliminate FEMA, which provides life-saving aid and equipment to disaster-riddled states.

Right, the “vulture” is the guy who wants to save FEMA, an organization vital to saving lives, rather than the guy who wants to gut it (or the woman who defends him).

As for “wasting no time,” when exactly is the right time to talk about the fact that the man who would-be president in only seven days is a self-serving buffoon who has no sense of the nation’s true priorities, and that his policies would have had a real and deleterious effect on millions of Americans when disaster struck yesterday?  After he’s elected, I’m sure.

And if it makes the NYT editorial board “vultures” for criticizing Romney’s support for abolishing FEMA in the middle of a disaster, what exactly does it make Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan that they broke their promise not to campaign while American lives are still at risk, and even worse, are now holding campaign events wrapped in “storm relief”?

I can think of a few words.

I also thought it rather vulture-esque of Romney to call GOP governors, but not Democratic governors, to offer his world-renowned expertise in hurricane management (he has none), also known as “yet again breaking his promise not to campaign in the middle of the disaster.”  But even worse, treating a national disaster as some of kind of political “opportunity,” or as vultures call it, lunch.

Here’s the NYT:

Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.

“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.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.

Mitt couldn’t be any more wrong. While trying to Etch-A-Sketch his way to becoming a “severely conservative” candidate during the GOP presidential primary, Romney neglected to mention that his fellow GOP leaders took the very same federal disaster aid that he claims to want to eliminate.

Hurricane Superstorm Sandy over America

Hurricane Superstorm Sandy over America, via NOAA

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal complained to the federal government that he had not been properly reimbursed for the money his state had spent preparing for a disaster, something not normally covered by FEMA — in other words, Jindal wanted even more federal disaster aid. And while battling crippling wildfires in his state, Texas Governor Rick Perry complained to President Obama that he had not received as much aid as the state of Alabama.

So much for condemning sucking on the government teat.

Even GOP Golden Boy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, had nothing but praise for Obama and FEMA during Hurricane Sandy preparation,  calling the President’s response to the disaster “outstanding,” and saying that he “appreciated the president’s outreach today in making sure that we know he’s watching this and is concerned about the health and welfare and safety of the people of the state of New Jersey.”

These Republican leaders may be disappointed to know that their nominee has pledge to eliminate FEMA funding, leaving cash-strapped states on their own during disasters:

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages. After Mr. Romney’s 2011 remarks recirculated on Monday, his nervous campaign announced that he does not want to abolish FEMA, though he still believes states should be in charge of emergency management. Those in Hurricane Sandy’s path are fortunate that, for now, that ideology has not replaced sound policy.

Interesting to note how Mitt thinks that providing federal aid to states in need is “immoral,” yet is fine with taking $1.5 billion in federal dollars to finance his Olympics.

No, “immoral,” is going to a soup kitchen that’s already closed and washing some clean pots and pans, for a grand total of 3 minutes, in order to pretend you care, and the next day your supporters try to put the soup kitchen out of business.


Gabe Ortíz is a San Francisco-based writer. He has contributed to the Mission's bilingual newspaper "El Tecolote," and the political blogs AMERICAblog, AMERICAblog Gay, and Veracity Stew. He's also a Stevie Nicks lover and shameless catlady. Follow him on Twitter: @Tusk81.

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  • Crystal

    What?  No, FEMA was an independent agency up until 2003, when it was placed into the fledgeling Department of Homeland Security, where it is still positioned today.  I think there was once some talk of moving it to HHS, but nothing ever came of that.  Moving it to DHS was a ridiculously bad idea.  It needs to be taken out of DHS, and made into an independent agency again at the Cabinet Level.  CERT training and other serious training of local emergency management professionals had long been taking place before that, and needs to continue.  Taking FEMA away from the cabinet and putting it into DHS caused a tremendous amount of confusion in terms of the agency’s roles and responsibilities, confusion that was still in play when Katrina hit, and that confusion was from the top to the bottom.  FEMA had been working well, the way it was supposed to, under the leadership of James Lee Witt, and had even implemented a money saving program called Project Impact, designed to save the taxpayers money being spent on response and recovery by helping communities develop public/private partnerships, using mitigation and preparedness to make their commuinities disaster-resistant, the end result being that disaster recovery would cost less in terms of both money and lives.  Sadly, this excellent program was a casualty of politics. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-R-Costello/1539395157 John R Costello

    Romney has a Disaster Relief Plan – Its Called YOYO

    “You’re On Your Own”

  • Shmoop

    Agreed, I’m not afraid of the man who knows nothing and knows he knows nothing, I’m afraid of the man that knows nothing but thinks he knows everything.

  • Naja pallida

    We already have warrantless wiretapping of citizens. Propaganda being broadcast 24/7 instead of informative news, purposefully intending to keep the populace in the dark. People being held in prisons indefinitely, without charge. Entire municipalities having their local electoral process completely negated by state governments. Police using brutal force, including chemical weapons, against peaceful protesters. The assassination of US citizens at the whim of the President, and good statistical proof that pretty much all elections have been systematically rigged for years… what makes you believe we are not already in a totalitarian police state? That they simply don’t have enough man power to get to all of us doesn’t make it any less so.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WCDBRHRRDGOR2PVTQFVOCOXJDU j

    It’s a revealing comment, actually.  A “vulture” is creature that picks on the flesh of the dead  – what does that tell you about the Romney campaign? 

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

     “what is further to the right” A totalitarian police state comes to mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jo-Hargis/100002882420472 Jo Hargis

     I believe you mean “white horse prophecy”, and yeah, scary stuff.

  • george assad

    Ladbrokes is making Obama 1/3 and Romney 11/5; Intrade: Obama 63.6%, Romney 36.3%. It is in The Media’s interest to make it appear close. The Media will rake in up to $4MMM in ad revenues when the elections are over. The Rove/Norquist/Reed team is propagandizing the Mass. Senate race but Ladbrokes is making it Warren 1/10 and Brown 5/1; Intrade: Warren 81.1% Brown 18%. As Deepthroat said, Follow the money!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Hurricane Georges was in 1998. That was long before the current incarnation of FEMA. Although it was during the time Bill Clinton had elevated it to cabinet status and Congress had assigned a number of additional roles, this still came after decades of Reagan-Bush neglect and constant GOP budget cuts.

    The one positive thing to come out of the Katrina disaster was FEMA was moved out of Homeland Security and into HHS, where they began taking serious measures to ensure professional teams were trained and ready to respond to disasters — including being ready for them before they happened.

  • OleQuijote

    I was stationed in Puerto Rico when Georges hit. I was an active duty JAG officer with the Army. Part of my responsibility was to adjudicate claims of soldiers. I saw FEMA “in action,” and I would get rid of it, based on what I saw. They arrived and didn’t know what they were doing. They had all of this ice flown in that promptly turned to bags of water on the hot tarmac.  Ultimately, they just started writing checks to virtually anyone who filed a claim. I was later in the prosecution division of our JAG office and had to deal with a lot of the fraudulent claims made to FEMA by Puerto Rican National Guard members. FEMA would be great if it lived up to its lofty ideals. The problem is that it doesn’t.

  • JTS

     Well, if you want to consider discussing an important public issue when deciding how to vote, then yes, this is being politicized, and rightly so. 

    The guy who wants my vote to be president has unrefutably stated that FEMA’s function (federal emergency management) should be done by the states, not the federal government.  He picked a running mate who voted against FEMA funding 7 times.  On top of it, he now says he would keep FEMA.  So he either (i) blows with the wind and doesn’t mean what he says (which leaves me with the problem of trying to predict what Mitt would do if I voted to elect him), (ii) truly believes that the Feds should not be involved in any disaster relief.  I don’t like either choice.  Is there another choice that I’m missing?

    As bad as Bush was, at least he had beliefs and stuck by them.  This guy Romney is starting to scare me.

  • Naja pallida

    You’re going to have to help me here, what is further to the right than what we already have for a Republican party, short of concentration camps for political dissidents? They’re already at the point of advocating anarchy over government.

  • Naja pallida

    There’s probably a reason why the Constitution specifically takes military powers away from the individual states and moves it to the federal government… but I can’t imagine what that would be.

  • Naja pallida

    The real most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m the former CEO of a venture capital group, I don’t care if 47% of the country up and dies tomorrow, and I’m here to help… and raise money for my campaign.”

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    FEMA response, as coordinated by the National Response Coordination Center, acting on information provided by NOAA and NWS, and able to deploy resources on a national level, including the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Red Cross: “We’re here to help everybody. What do you need?”

    Individual state response: “Hi we’re– Oh sorry, we’re out of water. Budget cutbacks. But we have some– oh wait, is this Elm Street? Dang, we crossed over into North Carolina. Double-sorry, we can only help South Carolina residents. You’re on your own.”

    Mitt Romney’s ideal world for-profit disaster response: “Hi, we’re here from RescueCorp. If you can give us your credit card information, we’ll get you airlifted off that roof right away. Food and shelter is an extra surcharge.”

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