The LuLac Edition #2248, October 31st, 2012
WRITE ON WEDNESDAY (1)
A BIG STORM REQUIRES BIG GOVERNMENT
During the 2012 GOP Presidential primary campaign, Mitt Romney made a lot of statements to appeal to the right. We all knew at least a few of them were going to come back and bite him hard. But events involving a historic storm along with his commits might put him at a disadvantage. In the closing days of the campaign. The New York Times pounced on this story. Here’s what they wrote:
Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate. 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. It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen. The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast. 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 recalculated 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.
WRITE ON WEDNESDAY (2)
LAWMAKERS' FLOOD OF IRRESPONSIBILITY
Last week the Citizen’s Voice wrote an editorial that dovetailed with the Romney commits. This s story involved the horrible but predictable behavior of the state GOP leadership in getting money back to flood victims. How anyone can vote for a Republican after seeing these stories is beyond me.
More than 13 months after severe flooding swept through the Susquehanna River Basin, state lawmakers have swept themselves out of Harrisburg to campaign, without approving flood aid. Tens of millions of dollars' worth of road, bridge, sewer and water system repairs will just have to wait until lawmakers get around to funding them. That won't be this year because the current session of the Legislature has ended and there are no more voting days. Under the best of circumstances, funding would not be approved until the beginning of the new session in January. But even that would not accelerate repairs because they would have to wait for the beginning of construction season. And, because some lawmakers favor funding flood repairs as part of the general budget rather than separately, the funding might not be available until July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. This is precedent-setting irresponsibility toward state communities affected by natural disasters. Lawmakers often have appropriated emergency funds to supplement federal assistance since the Hurricane Agnes floods of 1972. Remarkably, lawmakers and the Corbett administration couldn't come to a funding agreement this year even though both houses of the Legislature and the administration are controlled by the same party. The Senate favored a $150 million recovery bond issue, a form of loan, that is well within the state government's means. House leaders and Gov. Tom Corbett favored an approach that precluded borrowing - which would have been ideal had they followed through on it. The fundamental issue, though, isn't whether the government borrows the money, but whether - and when - the badly needed infrastructure work is completed. Meanwhile, after failing to fund the needed work, many of the campaigning lawmakers will be on the stump blaming others for a slow economic recovery. When they wander back to the Capitol, lawmakers should adopt a protocol that mandates rapid funding for emergency responses, even if the state government has to borrow some money.