Is Hurricane Sandy Another “Let Them Go Bankrupt” Moment For Mitt Romney?

It certainly appears so. This is at the New York Times today:

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, […]

To my mind, this narrative is clear-cut and devastating: Mitt Romney, as was the case with General Motors and is now the case with Hurricane Sandy, would–were his policies actually enacted–leave his fellow citizens in desperate straits.

And this gets back to Romney’s “Atlas Shrugged” problem. Ayn Rand, a hero to many Republicans, was emotionally disconnected from the public realm–and she was proud of it. The pinnacle of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, is the withdrawal of the rich and talented from the rest of suffering humanity into a utopian enclave called “Galt’s Gulch.” This elitist fantasy of escape, akin to the Christian fundamentalist’s longing for the rapture, has influenced the way Republicans think about issues like the bailout of GM and the elimination of FEMA.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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One Response to Is Hurricane Sandy Another “Let Them Go Bankrupt” Moment For Mitt Romney?

  1. mhasegawa says:

    And to make it even better, The New York Times this morning says this

    Mr. Romney, surveying the piles of donated goods, recalled a time in high school when classmates discovered a football field littered with trash.

    “And the person who was responsible for organizing the effort said, just line up along the yard lines. You go between the goal line and the 10-yard line. And the next person, between 10 and 20, and then just walk through and do your lane. And if everybody cleans their line, why, we’ll be able to get the job done. And so today, we are cleaning one lane, if you will,” he said.

    Yeah, cleaning up lower Manhattan, the Jersey Shore, Charleston WV, CT, etc. etc is like cleaning up a football field.

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