After Sandy, will Romney support FEMA?
The Republican candidate's comments last year about the Federal Emergency Management Agency are coming back to haunt him.
Mitt Romney’s comments in the early stages of the presidential campaign about the Federal Emergency Management Agency came back to haunt him Monday as Hurricane Sandy made landfall with a vicious power.
At a GOP primary debate in June of 2011, the former Massachusetts governor endorsed shifting the responsibilities of FEMA to state governments and private companies.
"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," Romney said in response to a question about the agency. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."
The Romney campaign has since explained away the comments in statements to media outlets as an argument for states to take the lead on disaster relief. But the former Massachusetts governor went a step further during the debate and argued that expenditures by FEMA -- which not only provides aid but helps rebuild local economies after a natural disaster -- contributes to the national debt.
"Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question: What should we keep?" Romney said. "We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in."
FEMA acquired a terrible reputation during the Hurricane Katrina fiasco in 2005, when 1,833 people died after the storm tore apart and flooded much of New Orleans and the coast along the Gulf of Mexico.
Within four days of the hurricane, President George W. Bush signed a $10.5 billion relief package, but the slow and disorganized response -- often broadcast live on television -- made FEMA the symbol of a dawdling and wasteful government bureaucracy. "FEMA has been here three days yet there is no command and control,” said Terry Ebbert, who was the director of homeland security for New Orleans during the hurricane. "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."
The political appointee running the agency, Michael Brown, quickly became the fall guy and the agency began to turn around in its response to the emergencies that have followed.
The FEMA Disaster Relief Fund spent almost $13 billion last year, leading to concerns that it could run dry. There were 99 major disaster declarations in 2011, compared to 81 in 2010 and 34 so far this year. As of August, a FEMA official told The Christian Science Monitor that the fund contained $1.5 billion.
However, the conservative Heritage Foundation concluded that the increase in major disaster declarations under Obama and President George W. Bush has little to do with Mother Nature. FEMA has become a "political pork-barrel spending agency," Matt Mayer, a visiting fellow at Heritage wrote last January.
House Republicans also took a firm stand last year against more funding for FEMA, if it required additional debt by the government. After a tornado struck Joplin, Mo., an earthquake shook the mid-Atlantic, and Hurricane Irene inflicted $19 billion worth of damage on the east coast, the agency was running dangerously low on money.
"Those monies are not unlimited. And what we’ve always said is we’d offset that which has already been funded," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told Fox News on Aug. 29. "Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster, it finds the money it needs to, to take care of a sick loved one or what have you and then goes without trying to buy new car or put an addition onto the house."
Lawmakers reached a compromise in Sept. 2011 that provided less money for FEMA than advocated by Democrats without the spending cuts being pushed by Republicans.
The haggling drew criticism from prominent Republicans including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after his state was struck by Hurricane Irene.
"You’re going to turn it into a fiasco like that debt-limit thing, where you’re fighting with each other for eight or nine weeks. And you expect the citizens of my state to wait?" Christie said at the time. "They’re not going to wait. And I’m going to fight to make sure that they don’t."
President Obama called Christie on Monday as flooding from Hurricane Sandy swallowed Atlantic City. This time, Christie complimented FEMA for its excellent performance.
Romney announced, according to the Associated Press, that he may go to New Jersey later this week to tour the wreckage caused by the storm.
Josh Boak is a national correspondent at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' FREE newsletter.
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Conservatives putting a price on a human life by cutting FEMA?? I would rather hear stories of our debt problem then hearing how many lives where lost cause FEMA was taken away. Its like choosing to not go to the emergency room cause it might put you in debt. Yeah thats how stupid Romney sounds!! AGAIN YOU CAN"T PUT A PRICE ON HUMAN LIVES.
Mitt the Twit...It's all about me. I, I, I, I, I, Me, Me, Me, Me..I did it ALL by myself!
Why doesn't Romney find something really useful to do. Like mow his own grass. But stay the hell out of the way of the Governors and the work the real caring people are doing. He isn't the Presiden't and is just another tourist and has no business sticking his nose in there.
As for his stance on FEMA, he doesn't remember anything he says 15 minutes after he says it and this is just another case of that disease. He played deaf to all the reporters who asked him about it while he was doing his so called charity crap complete with Romney video's and anti-Obama t-shirts. Unfortunately there are those fools that aren't smart enough to see what this clown is, just like they didn't see dubya for what he was either. Just another Carl Rove/Koch/Murdoch lackey.
Romney was asked 14 times while showing off that he can load a truck and did not answer one time
any of the Questions citizens were throwing at him. He completely ignored them. It makes me sick
to see people supporting him. Did you ever try to have a civil conversation with a Republican....You
are wasting your time. They won't listen, they keep interrupting you and say Obama is a Muslim, a liar a socialist,
etc. He is a Christian. They can't carry on a discussion on both parties. They won't admit the good that Obama has done.We
were on a brink of a depression in 2008. The Stock Market Fell to the low 8.000pt.'s. I lost alot
of money that year. Both in investment's and 401K's. Today the Stock Market is 13,000 pt's.
Doesn't this show something. I do not trust Romney.......Too many contradictions. He may be a businessman,
but he is not Presidential material.
FEMA IS THE TOTALLY INCOMPETENT, COSTLY AGENCY THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN CREATED! Remember Katrina and the billion dollar, cancer-causing trailer fiasco!
In the beginning, FEMA caused nearly all states to put an Emergency Management person in every county - a person with no qualifications for anything - thousands of more overpaid government employees who cost taxpayers dearly and added to Obama's increase in the national debt of $6,000,000,000,000 - SIX TRILLION DOLLARS DEBT DUE TO OBAMA and our terrible congress.
Three cheers for Romney! He said something that might get rid of worthless FEMA jerks.
Mitt Rubbish was wrong on FEMA, wrong on Ben Laden, wrong on the automobile industry, wrong on female (Family) issues, wrong on the Middle East so much so in his last debate that he champion everything the president was saying, wrong on China, Now these are just some of the things he was wrong on NOW! What about how he just blatantly lies: you can go to YouTube and find so many videos where he says one thing and when you ask him the same question a week later he says something different. HOW COULD THIS PERSON BE A BETTER CHOICE?... GO FIGURE Also don't forget he wants to give tax break to the top 1% and he bashes 47% of Americans behind close door AND TO THOSE WHO THINK THIS IS A GOOD CHOICE FOR AMERICA YOU MAY HAVE BUYERS REMORSE when this is all said and DONE! And for those people that can’t get pass race, image this “the President a white man” and he was up against Mitt Rubbish WOULD THIS BE A DIFFICULT CHOICE TO MAKE?
Amazing is the amount of ignorance in America today people need to grow up really. We have a person running for president that until recently owned stocks in Chinese companies, ships American jobs off to foreign counties, has off shore bank accounts, Mitt Romney profited by at least $15.3 million (GM Delphi Automotive) from the auto bailout. Will not release any more tax statements for fear that America will see the truth on what he is hiding. Romney urges business owners to tell their employees how to vote or risk losing their jobs. The draft dodger wants to take America to more unfunded wars in Iran, Syria and continue to occupy Afghanistan so that his cronies can get rich while America becomes a true third world country. This guy failed as governor (38% approval rating) and people think he is qualified to run the country!
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