Politics of disaster management and relief


The illustration above is my approximate representation of what the Republican Party’s presidential contender Mitt Romney’s coffee cup might look like in the aftermath of the devastating storm Sandy. I would grant you that my recolored image of Sandy superimposed on a generic coffee cup has turned out to be too much like actual cream. Trust me, it is Sandy.

As the northeastern United States struggles to emerge from the effects of the giant hurricane, one inevitable talking point has been about the politics of disaster and emergency management. Romney has every reason to hem and haw, clear his throat, smile nervously and evade altogether as he is badgered with questions about whether he still maintains that drastic cuts to federal emergency management are wise and warranted.

During a Republican primary debate last year Romney was asked if he thought disaster management and relief should be handed over to the states. He replied, “Absolutely. 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.” He thinks it is “immoral” for the federal government to deal with this and increase its debt. (I attribute this bit of information to The New York Times editorial on October 29).

One of the agencies that Romney and his Republican colleagues particularly dislike is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) whose mandate kicks in precisely at a time like the one the country is experiencing now. They are strongly for reducing the FEMA’s budget because they see the agency as an example of centralizing too much power in the federal government. At a time when the US states are battling massive budget deficits, a disaster of Sandy’s magnitude would have knocked their fiscal management out.

Sandy has come as a grim reminder to Romney and his supporters that some things are better handled federally because hurricanes are not state or ideology specific. As far as I can tell they are not known to skip states whose political philosophy is akin to Romney’s.

As if Team Romney needed any more reminders about it, New Jersey’s voluble Republican Governor Chris Christie, whose state has taken a major battering, was sanguine in his praise of President Barack Obama’s response to the disaster. Christie, who is widely seen to be among Romney’s most strident weapons against Obama, said the president has been “outstanding” during the crisis. In his TV interviews Christie used terms such as wonderful and excellent to describe how Obama has responded to it in terms of federal support.

All this is unlikely to make Romney and his aides happy, particularly when voting for the presidential election is scheduled to take place next Tuesday. None of this, of course, means that Obama is guaranteed to win but, at the very least, it offers an unwelcome contrast in his favor so close to the vote.

Note to the readers: I wrote this post purely to use this illustration that got immaculately conceived in my mind this morning.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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