Hurricane Willard: Updated

June 2011

“During a CNN debate at the height of the GOP primary, Mitt Romney was asked, in the context of the Joplin disaster and FEMA’s cash crunch, whether the agency should be shuttered so that states can individually take over responsibility for disaster response.

“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. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

There’s video of this:

May 2012

“House Republican appropriators on Tuesday revealed that they have decided to ignore GOP budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the controversial issue of disaster relief, spending over the discretionary levels set in the 2013 budget.  Ryan’s Budget Committee, in nonbinding report language attached to the House-passed 2013 budget, called for all disaster relief to “be fully offset within the discretionary levels provided in this resolution.” [The Hill]

October 2012

Ron Bonjean, GOP Strategist: “Most people don’t have a positive impression of FEMA and I think Mitt Romney was right on the button. But I don’t think anybody cares about that right now. I think people care about whether or not their power’s on, whether or not their basement’s going to be flooded. And I think that if the president gets too far in front of this and something goes wrong, people are going to remember, hey, my power’s not out, and the president’s talking about FEMA. I’m not a real big fan of FEMA. That could sway their vote.”

The Romney campaign issued this ‘clarification’ ahead of Sandy’s landfall:

“Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters.” [Stir]

Remember the Romney-Ryan budget proposal calls for 20% cuts across the board in non-defense discretionary spending.  Their previously issued statements also call for transforming emergency funds into Block Grants for states.  So, whatever disaster strikes the ‘resources and assistance’ would come from the state — not federal resources.   The state of Louisiana would have had to pick up the bill for Hurricane Katrina from its ‘block grant.’  The state of Missouri would have been responsible for paying all emergency services bills associated with the Joplin/SW area tornadoes.  Western states would have to pay for emergency services during wild land fires from their ‘block grants.’

UPDATE: Oh my, the political winds must be shifting because the Romney campaign is out with yet another clarification:

“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” [Politico]

Now he doesn’t want to eliminate FEMA, he simply wants the states to take over — with, one should assume, those block grant funds.

Whose Disaster?

No one has quite managed to clarify how the funds for these block grants would be distributed?  Does Florida get more because it is prone to hurricane devastation?  Does the money sent to Florida mean that less could be sent to Connecticut in the wake of  Nor’easters?  Does money sent to Connecticut and Florida mean there is less available for California in the event of an earthquake?  Does money allocated for Florida, Connecticut and California mean less money in the pot for Indiana and Illinois tornado disaster relief? How much money would we need to assist with emergency services during a Minnesota or North Dakota blizzard?

Governor Romney began his 2011 remarks by saying that the federal government should send as much as possible “back to the states,” and sending it back to the private sector would be even better.

When asked directly about disaster relief he said:

“We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.” [Slate]

Yes, “think of the children…” We are thinking of children.  Children made temporarily homeless by fires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and their parents aren’t thinking of the ‘national debt’ … they are seeking relief.  As immediately as possible, from a government which  pledges in its Constitution  to promote their general welfare.

So, Governor Romney and Rep. Ryan would remove this pledge and replace it with block grants, the rationale for awards thereof remaining unclear, and with the amounts cut by 20%, to be allocated to states which may or may not need emergency funds immediately, and this is supposed to benefit whom?

Answer: The millionaires and billionaires who don’t want their taxes to be increased from 35% to 39.6%?

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