During times of distress—whether natural or manmade or, I guess, both—people tend to come together. At least, in recent history, in New York City, during events ranging from the blackout of 2003 to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, to the blizzard of 2010, and now to the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, people have banded together to help each other and work through these times of surreal crisis. People do good deeds as individuals, as private citizens, and they do these good deeds under the auspices of government, both local and federal. At these times, we appreciate no one more than the Fire Department, the Police Department, the EMS, but also, we appreciate the people, the regular citizens who join forces to help each other in our times of need.
So. Why politicize this? Why even mention politics or parties or the imminent election?
The reason that I think that it is essential to remember this election and what it means during the Sandy clean-up is because, as federal money starts to come in to assist in the clean-up and as government employees like firefighters and sanitation workers help to fight the damage that Sandy wrought, we need to remember that who we vote for determines how much help we can expect. Mitt Romney is on record in 2011, during a GOP primary debate as saying that he believes FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) should be shut down. Romney was asked whether or not the agency should be closed and responsibility be given to the states or, even, the private sector. Romney responded, ""Absolutely. 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. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?"
When the debate moderator inquired, "Including disaster relief, though?"
Romney replied, "We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all."
So, basically, Romney would be comfortable allowing the private sector to best take care of the disaster in New York and, indeed, all up and down the Eastern seaboard. Perhaps it is because Romney thinks that the kind of disaster that occurred due to Hurricane Sandy is virtually impossible. In fact, as Forbes reported in August, Romney treated the "rising sea levels" that we are dealing with "as a mere rhetorical device, a laugh line to mock Barack Obama‘s grandiosity. And he milked it for a few long seconds as the crowd at the Republican National Convention laughed."
The Romney camp would like us all to forget this now, as they continue campaigning under the guise of "hurricane relief" but we should not forget. We should not forget that while party politics are a grim and dirty game and that many members of the Democratic Party have their own shady history and that NYC is a singular place in that it tends to look beyond political lines because of our foundationally progressive and liberal(yes) orientation, we should not forget that there is one candidate out there who is ON RECORD as stating that he does not support the efforts of FEMA at times of disaster relief. Romney believes that it is "immoral" to add to the deficit in order to help people who are in desperate need through no fault of their own. Romney does not, however, believe it is immoral to spend on the military or to be all warmonger-y with Iran in an attempt to win over certain segments of the voting population.
Romney has a wildly different view of what is "immoral" than, at least, I do, and I'm sure many New Yorkers do. Romney is a man who believes that 47% of this country does not deserve to even be considered because they take some form of government assistance, and yet Romney has no trouble employing government loopholes to assist himself out of paying tax rates comparable to Americans who make a fraction of what he does. Romney is friends with despicable toadies like Donald Trump who grandstand and bloviate about giving millions of dollars to charity, while having no intention of actually doing so.
It is important to politicize this hurricane because many of the people who are desperately in need of help right now will only be able to get it from the government. Even if you are lucky enough not to be one of those people in need, knowing the situations that these people face, knowing that next time it could be you, are you really ready to vote for someone who will blithely take it all away? And why shouldn't he? Romney can take care of himself. He doesn't care about you. Mitt Romney doesn't care about you. Don't forget that. It might be the most important thing to remember as we recover, together, and look toward the future.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen