Hurricane Sandy FEMA: The Republican Plan for FEMA is Hypocrisy


Mitt Romney and Eric Cantor campaigned in Virginia on Thursday. During the campaign event, Romney turned to Cantor and asked, when was the last time Cantor had a discussion with Obama on jobs, the economy or the budget? What he didn’t ask Cantor was how come he tried to force a 43% cut in FEMA funds and, along with VP Candidate Paul Ryan, repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters prove more expensive than originally predicted. You think that may have been a question on everyone’s mind in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? Has Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told his patrons from his home state of Virginia that he is prepared to deny them any emergency relief funding until he can find offsetting cuts in the budget?

I'm waiting for someone on the right, conservative or libertarian, to publish an article chastising all those conservatives for receiving FEMA funds. I'd like to see them tell Governor Chris Christie (R) and the other governors that they are wrong for accepting taxpayer money. I'd like them to say that they don't want their taxpayer dollars to help the conservatives on New York’s Long Island and Staten Island, in Virginia and Hoboken, New Jersey and I'd like to see that article now not later. I’d like them to chastise their fellow citizens for taking government handouts.

How dare those conservatives rely on the government, when they should rely solely on the generosity of others? We don't have the money to help those conservatives. Life is hard, but we have to make cuts somewhere — that’s what they told Big Bird. I'd like to see it published on Drudge, Breitbart, Daily Caller, Townhall and I'd like to see it be a lead story on Fox News. I’d like to see Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), who made a point of grandstanding their intent to refuse government  funds for health care, give a joint press statement criticizing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for accepting aid from the government. Furthermore, why hasn’t the Republican National Committee announced that they will be pulling any future national funding from Christie for accepting a government handout from the leader of the, alleged, Socialist Party? Virginia Governor Bob McConnell (R) and Romney surrogate did not advocate for smaller government this week after he requested emergency FEMA management funds.

I know why we haven’t heard from them, it is because big storms, like big ideas and big services, need big government. The problem is that once big government steps in big abuse occurs and local and state governments rush in to take advantage of federal largesse.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was created by former President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Placed under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the agency’s primary purpose is to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. FEMA also provides these services for territories of the United States, such as Puerto Rico.

The agency’s function epitomizes the difference of opinion surrounding the role of the federal government. Obama and his supporters represent those who believe some functions are better suited for the federal government where best practice models can be leveraged and where you can obtain economies of scale associated with rapid deployment and resource utilization. Romney and his supporters believe that this is a perfect example of a service best performed by local and state government where familiarity with the surrounding environment and the unique regional and local vagaries are better addressed by those closest to the problem.

Both are correct, however in the case of a multi-regional disaster, like Sandy or the wildfires that swept through the Southwest, or the drought that plagued the Midwest and the farm belt, or the tornadoes that swept through the south and southwest, or the BP oil spill, or Katrina, only the federal government can muster up the resources required to address disasters of this scale, where the severity of the issue could quickly consume and overwhelm local resources.

A FEMA declaration comes with a shifting of at least 75% of costs to the federal government so governors often rush to FEMA as a cost-saving measure; not because their states are overwhelmed. If FEMA operated the way Republicans suggest, states would have to pick up more of the cost for supporting recovery from natural disasters which would result in either the states neglecting their responsibilities, or local taxes would have to be increased to offset the costs formerly absorbed by the federal government. 62% of the FEMA declarations during the Obama administration occurred in states led by Republican governors; 73% of the FEMA declarations made by Republicans occurred in states that receive more in federal funding than they pay in federal taxes. That is not a message that the tax adverse Republican governors wish to tell their residents.