Absolutely, we need FEMA
The Kansas City Star
At some point in the next few hours or days, Mitt Romney may decide he has to personally answer questions about FEMA. The blanket statement issued by his campaign yesterday won’t suffice. If Romney talks, I’m betting he has a different line than he did during one of last summer’s primary debates, when he was asked if states should take over more of the duties handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Absolutely,” Romney asserted. “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.”
Well, by nearly all accounts the federal government is doing a pretty good job this week of dealing with the havoc created by Superstorm Sandy.
The monster storm has wrecked transportation networks and left 8 million households and businesses without power in the nation’s most populous corridor. FEMA was on the ground before the storm started, it has gotten emergency help to people who need it and it will be around to help once the immediate crisis abates.
There is a reason governors appeal for federal disaster aid in the immediate aftermath of crises. Well-run states have good disaster preparedness systems. But few states have the resources that the federal government can provide in the event of wide-ranging disasters. The idea of turning disaster preparedness over to private businesses is absurd. They have a role, for sure. But keeping people safe and overseeing rebuilding is a government responsibility.
Unlike former President George W. Bush, who put FEMA in the hands of the hapless political hack Michael Brown, President Barack Obama made a great appointment in W. Craig Fugate. He’s a pro, and it shows.
FEMA has been a long-time target for Republicans. Some have called it just another entitlement. It isn’t. And disaster preparedness is something Americans should factor in to their voting decisions. Romney appears philosophically inclined to weaken FEMA. We don’t know what he would actually do in office, but it’s a concern.