Storms, storms, and more storms… After a storm-shortened convention in Tampa and a storm-emasculated final week of campaigning, you’d think the Romney campaign would learn to respect the powerful climate forces he’s gotten so good at ignoring.
And, perhaps, the Romney campaign is a bit taken aback. Or maybe it’s finally starting to sink in that they look like a boatload of out of touch buffoons. After ignoring reporters questions for almost a week, today Mitt Romney finally walked back his long-standing policy position that had pushed for the elimination of critical disaster relief programs like FEMA. Though it seemed a forced and painful admission, Romney, at long last, noted that he wouldn’t underfund or eliminate FEMA, as he had proposed throughout his campaign.
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first-responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”
This statement is in direct contradiction to previous statements Romney made about the role of FEMA. It is also in direct contradiction with Romney and Ryan budgets which cut about 40% from FEMA programs. Such cuts would devastate FEMA’s ability to aid localities and states in the event of a disaster like Sandy and flies directly in the face of lessons Republicans should have learned after Katrina.
The privatization program that Romney and Ryan allude to would be even worse. The result would be that those who could pay to be lifted off their homes by helicopters would be. The rest, those unable to afford a private disaster response service, would be left on their flooded homes to fend for themselves or to perish. Privatized first response would mean that only those able to pay fire services fees would receive defense from fire fighters. The rest would see their homes left to burn.
In the case of disaster response, privatization makes absolutely no sense. Injecting profit motive into a service that saves lives means that fewer lives are saved as the bottom line shifts from the goal of helping people to the goal of accumulating profit. And in the gap between the two extremes of such a heartless program, many would find themselves facing a choice between bankruptcy or having their lives or property saved.
Romney and Ryan’s myopic views on disaster relief are drastically proven wrong with each new major disaster. So it seems, finally, that they have grudgingly relented on their publicly adversarial position toward the beneficial federal agency that is FEMA. But can we trust that this change isn’t anything more than a disingenuous bow to the winds of public opinion? Can we trust that Romney and Ryan won’t sabotage FEMA if elected and attempt to privatize it and other key programs, shifting more money to plutocrats while letting the poor and middle class bear all of the greatly increasing risk?
And what of the issue of climate change? Yes. The climate change that fueled this storm, made it worse, and helped to steer it in toward the East Coast? The climate change that has increased sea levels and is increasing them ever more rapidly? What of that? Is it still drill baby drill until the heartland is burned to a crisp and the coastal cities are all flooded? A recent statement from Businessweek, I believe, provides the appropriate response to Romney’s nonsense:
On Aug. 30, [Romney] belittled his opponent’s vow to arrest climate change, made during the 2008 presidential campaign. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Romney told the Republican National Convention in storm-tossed Tampa. “My promise is to help you and your family.” Two months later, in the wake of Sandy, submerged families in New Jersey and New York urgently needed some help dealing with that rising-ocean stuff.
I, for one, doubt that the cynical and misinformation spewing Romney/Ryan campaign has one genuine bone of non-token sympathy for FEMA or the disaster victims in their bodies. They have sought at every turn to pull out the underpinnings of supports for people in harm’s way and the national response systems that help Americans who find themselves in the face of disasters of all kinds. They haven’t sought to eliminate or reduce risks. To the contrary, their policies increase them.
This fact cannot be changed by a fake canned food drives for the Red Cross. Canned food the Red Cross has already said it doesn’t need. Nor can it be changed by, yet another, alteration in extreme policy positions. The Romney/Ryan campaign has been nothing if not snarlingly critical of any positive action, but totally lacking in any decent alternative. Instead, they promise to serve up another helping of policies that lead to the likes of Katrina and will likely lead to worse. And, in cases where their positions become unpopular, they simply lie and misinform.
Message to Romney — leadership is not conducting a disingenuous and completely unhelpful photo op. Leadership is actually doing something to help people. Leadership is effectively wielding a government empowered to help those people in harm’s way. Leadership is establishing a moral structure that enables and encourages people to help one another, not one that enables people to profit from harming one another. Leadership is what we are seeing in Obama and Christie’s response in New Jersey. Not from the gimmicks, half truths, lack of response, lack of transparency, media dodging, and tortured walk-backs we are seeing from you.
I don’t know if the Koch-fueled Romney campaign realizes the tenuous and vastly irresponsible positions it has backed itself into. I don’t know if that same Romney campaign realizes that it has set itself up for a terrible moral fall, far worse than Bush, should it be elected. The sins of hubris weigh heavily on Romney and we have gotten just a small taste of it this week. Woe betide America should this …man ever be elected President.