It is heartbreaking to watch the East Coast emerge from another devastating hurricane. Hurricane Sandy took lives, ruined homes and businesses and disrupted important drivers of the nation’s economy.
Sandy didn’t match the scale or intensity of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast, but that’s an irrelevant comparison for those along the Eastern Seaboard struggling to put their lives back together today.
The hurricane also altered the presidential campaign plans, just days before the Nov. 6 vote, and put a focus on Republican Mitt Romney’s plans to cut back or eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
During the GOP primary, Romney said he would reduce or terminate FEMA operations at the federal level and turn the burden of disaster response back to the states.
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“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,” he said during a 2011 debate, in response to a question about what he would do with FEMA.
Cutting federal funding for programs and then turning them over to the states is a consistent theme in the Romney-Ryan campaign. They have proposed the same approach for Medicaid, for example.
But states are already shedding safety net programs. Taking on responsibility for disaster response and relief could be a disaster in and of itself.
Imagine a major earthquake in the Northwest, or Mount St. Helen’s-level destruction that an eruption of Mount Rainier would cause. Then imagine only the resources of the state government coming to help.
It feels like a potential nightmare.
Of course, states should have comprehensive disaster plans, and anyone living in this corner of the continental United States should prepare themselves and their families for the inevitable earthquake, lahar or volcanic eruption. One or all of those events will occur, it’s just a matter of when.
We can’t believe the federal government would refuse financial aid to some region, such as the Northwest, in the event of a ruinous geological occurrence.
But the money has to come from somewhere, and Romney’s plan to increase the military budget, while simultaneously cutting taxes and government spending, doesn’t add up to a lot of hope.