Millions without power across multiple states, New York’s subway system flooded, an entire neighborhood ravaged by fire fueled by Sandy, a race against time to restore power before bitter cold temperatures and the possibility of yet another storm. People in poorer areas feeling abandoned as it seemed the news needed to report on bubbling natural gas lines before company crews reached the region to turn them off; these where and are the scenes post hurricane Sandy who literally reshaped the Jersey coastline, who left 8 million without power 1.4 million still remain in the dark a week later, 5 days before government aid made it to some areas in force. Of course all this in the midst of the final stretch before the presidential election, and where politics meets reality who can forget some of the extreme views on smaller government, cuts they believe should be made to government in order to reduce the deficit and simply because the authors of such change find certain programs unnecessary, even redundant. It went beyond calling social security unconstitutional along with Medicare and food stamps, it went beyond let’s give education back to local areas in a time our national scores are at their lowest in decades, it went so far as let’s disband FEMA as ineffective, citing Katrina among other things. I can’t help but wonder what those possessing that school of thought then are thinking now, good thing I don’t live there? Is that truly the depth of callousness in our elected officials; perhaps it’s rather a complete disconnection with reality.
Ron Paul was the most vocal about this speaking to Fox news in the early primary season saying among other things that if you build your house on a beach and it gets swept away don’t expect the government to pay for it; one would hope if he were still a serious presidential candidate his comments would come back to haunt him and he would be shamed by them in light of how Sandy literally reshaped the Jersey shoreline. At least congressman Paul has had the decency to keep his extreme opinions to himself. But neither concept is even a small consolation to voters effected by the storm or who have loved ones who are, now trying to decide which viable candidate to vote for; already headlines asking the question would Romney disband FEMA have surfaced in the wake of the disaster, especially considering his stance on giving everything from education to Medicare and Medicaid back to the states. The problem with Congressman Paul’s harsh viewpoint on provide your own personal disaster relief, don’t expect the government to do so or build your house, your business in a better, safer region has always been multifold. One, home and business insurance is increasingly inadequate for the types of extreme weather events we are seeing; either families live in places that hardly see flooding therefore they logically reason they have no need for flood insurance or they cannot possibly pay for a policy that covers everything. Continuing policies are getting stiffer and stiffer in their definitions of disasters considering how much they will have to pay out, or there is simply no classification for the type of damage done during an even like a super storm; like mortgage documents insurance policies need the same federal mandate to be written in plain English, so you know what you are getting. Streamlining and Omni-tooling need to become part of simplifying thins as well preventing people from having to know flood insurance, for example, is sold separately and through the federal government. Two no matter what he and those who subscribe to his school of thought believe, there is still the matter of the thousands if not millions of people who live in disaster prone places like New Orleans and you cannot just relocate such a large amount of people, businesses, livelihoods, nor take that big of a chunk out of the economy should you try. Lastly whether that same group of people wants to face it or not, the true harsh reality is there are no safer areas to move to be you an individual, family, an entire community or if they actually attempted to implement some sort of government forced relocation, only different kinds of large, potentially deadly weather events to choose from.
Go here to see Chris Christie telling his local residents no rescue workers can reach them
And it’s so much more than FEMA proper’s future at stake but also all of disaster relief listening to tea party politicians; members of the public are left to wonder would all government help abandon them in the wake of something like Sandy. When you hear about national guard personnel, the United States Air Force using planes to deliver heavy equipment meant to restore power to over 8.5 million people, when you hear about marines helping distribute food, water and participating in well-being checks for afflicted residents, governor Chris Christie one day after talking about bringing in the Army Corps of Engineers to assess rebuilding the hardest hit parts of New Jersey, to build the kinds of defensive walls for places such as the Jersey shore, Manhattan like the ones they have in New Orleans, very quickly you understand how encompassing federal disaster relief really is. When you hear continuing reports 10 days later and thousands are still without power it becomes very clear just how unlikely it would be for local municipalities to be as effective as a national mobilization not only under FEMA but programs that send rescue workers from unaffected areas to effected areas to help; additionally, the burden of emergency help cannot be completely relegated to volunteer services like Samaritans Purse, The Red Cross places that rely primarily on donations to operate period, places responsible for multiple types of humanitarian efforts, disaster aid both here and abroad. Why, because they can’t afford it, they can’t function properly on a scale they were never meant to reach. It goes beyond days or weeks post storm aftermath to every dollar provided by our national government not just to home and business owners to get back on their feet, not just neighborhoods to rebuild but for essentials like debris removal, power restoration, pumping water off of streets and highways, substituting and quickly rebuilding local government buildings so things on a local level can function. While those monies, services and mobilizations may sound initially like they fall to the states, not so if they have used up allocated budget funds, emergency funds, taken dollars out of grass cutting for state property, snow removal for public streets and still they have nothing left after getting the lights, water and gas operational again, sometimes before.
Next let’s look at what a Romney, tea party plan to give disaster relief back to the states might do to clean up, shelter, power restoration, never mind rebuilding; before super storm Sandy made landfall, destroying things like the iconic boardwalk in New Jersey, grounding New York’s subway system to a watery halt a panel of experts on MSNBC spoke about just that. Among the highlights where facts centering around most states are broke and cannot in any way, shape or form afford to provide their own individual disaster relief; someone else pointed out the downright dangerous impracticality of asking states to have all of the sections of emergency, disaster support now supplied by the federal government, citing they just don’t have the manpower, the facilities, equipment to make it happen. Rural, outlying areas are already the last in many cases to receive assistance; smaller towns may or may not even have a police force never mind the local coordination to handle a situation on this grand a scale, of this magnitude. Other issues brought up include rouge mayors of towns, Bobby Jindal for example, who would not follow the federal mandate on how to apply disaster relief instead wanting to apply it only to a specific situation, potentially leaving people, needs and areas out of help entirely. Fact seems to follow prediction in this case; poorer neighborhoods in Sandy’s pathway are still without power, elderly and disabled people left in the cold and dark sometimes without life sustaining, lifesaving equipment. ABC news reporting on the storm and the New York visiting nurse service found a woman having chest pains; no one had been to see her until the news crew appeared taking her to the hospital. And this is with the combined efforts of FEMA, military, emergency taskforces volunteering from regions across the country aided by nationally known volunteer services like The Red Cross; going back to practicality, such emergency assistance can’t just be left up to the states and the trained workers residing there, because what happens if a large chunk of emergency workers die in a storm, with what happened in New York or even New Orleans during Katrina, what happens when emergency workers are just as stranded as everyone else, can’t report to work? Stretching beyond immediate funds for food, water, shelter basic utility activation post nature’s fury, neither can states afford the billions of dollars in clean up and restoration; parts of the hardest hit Katrina areas still haven’t fully recovered maybe never will. Without the funds provided by the federal government we end up with disaster zones resembling third world countries, nations like Haiti absent key government officials and resources.
Intertwining with those major factors is the track record of giving things back to the states; when Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona tried to balance their budget she did so by making significant cuts to the state Medicaid program specifically organ transplants resulting in people who literally died waiting not for the needed organ, not for a space on an operating table, not for a qualified doctor, not even for a bed in the hospital but died, actually died, because they lacked the money to pay for the procedure and or the required aftercare. Further when news media began reporting on the story via a cystic fibrosis patient in her 20’s, whole life ahead of her due to receive lungs finally free of CF, it wasn’t the federal government who stepped in and said hold it, these are people’s lives, but local businesses who stood up and said we cannot watch a young girl die donating the funds to cover her transplant and subsequent care. At least 2 others weren’t so lucky dying on a different kind of waiting list. Concerns about giving education back to the states is more than global competiveness, an equal playing field post high school; it’s states that have abstinence only sex education and a bunch of pregnant teenagers, it’s making sure students get a full understanding of history not just the a locally skewed version, it’s ensuring students are schooled in, have knowledge of, controversial concepts of science like evolution and stem cell research. Tying these concepts back to storm recovery, we have a United States government for a reason, because in order for a nation to function well, there are things you need on a national scale; dealing with storm aftermath is a perfect example. Bringing us to another point this is the United States a one country unit, not a bunch of small countries out here fending for themselves no matter how much extreme politicians seem to want to make it exactly that. If we do disband FEMA without a replacement, if our leaders agree to abandon the most vulnerable people at the worst time, then we might as well disband the country, have it split all along state lines every state governor becomes president of his own country, they print their own money, make their own laws, hammer out their own trade deals, hammer out their own travel and immigration rules and everyone’s life gets so much more complicated. Oh we’ve already done that somewhere between ratifying the bill of rights into the US constitution and the addition of western territories; the difference is the population was at a fraction, no one had properly settled or yet claimed the wild west area, not to mention we got beyond it to become one cohesive country
Equally insidious, arguably increasingly detrimental is not simply the idea of reforming agencies like FEMA because they don’t work, because they no longer meet the needs they were originally designed for, because we need something totally new and different to properly handle the age of the super storm; it is that the underlying motive behind the assertion to suggest or force people to provide their own disaster relief, commandeer states into the do it yourself club is we (the national government) don’t wanna pay for it. Better they would say we, the national government, a nation drowning in debt cannot afford it; only another lie to add to the bunch. A more accurate translation reads as follows we will cut disaster relief efforts and, most importantly, funds before we will ask wealthy citizens to pay a little more, before we close many loopholes that drive taxes for the wealthiest of persons even lower, before we cut subsidies to big oil companies that admit they probably don’t need them. Yes we will take Big Bird off the air, cut funding to arts and humanities, defund planned parenthood thinking we’ve done something before anyone will think about, never mind actually take action, on government waste, before we even contemplate reconfiguring our tax code to ensure big corporations start by paying taxes period instead of taking advantage of aforementioned loopholes to legally avoid paying taxes at all and then ensure they too pay their fair share. Truth is we find the money for what we want to fund in this country, what someone can convince a politician is important in this country; all you have to do is turn on your TV to see how important funds are to rebuild after Sandy, how desperately funds are needed to provide cleanup from basic cleaning supplies to heavy equipment to remove debris, to help restoring power and gas. To say nothing of Sandy victims should be worried about injuries, loved ones, belongings, shelter, food, having a polling place to go to on election day in light of the damage, getting to that polling place, not a changing of the guard meaning they get no help, not whether politicians will disassemble FEMA in an era it clearly is more than required, not whether they need to change their vote taking into account both candidates’ stance on the agency and related disaster relief, that the above named scenarios are likely going through those same effected people’s heads is a shameful blight on our country.