During times of distress people tend to come together. At least, in recent NYC history, from the blackout of 2003 and the terrorist attacks of September 11th to the blizzard of 2010 and now the destruction wreaked by Superstorm Sandy, people have helped each other to work through these times of surreal crisis. People do good deeds as individuals, as private citizens, and also under the auspices of governments, both local and federal. At these times, we appreciate the regular citizens, but we appreciate no one more than those in the Fire Department, the Police Department, the EMS.
As federal money starts to arrive to assist in the clean-up, and as government employees like firefighters and sanitation workers repair the damage that Sandy wrought, we need to remember that who represents us in government will determine how much help we can expect. I should mention that I’m writing this before the election, although you’ll be reading it after. Perhaps what I’m about to say will seem irrelevant because Barack Obama won a second term. Or perhaps it’ll seem terrifying because Mitt Romney has been elected. Either way, it’s important to remember where both candidates stand, because natural disasters like Sandy—these “once-in-a-century” storms—are now occurring with alarming frequency. And while Romney may be the face of an abhorrent political philosophy (insofar as it’s even coherent), it does not end with him—it pervades his entire party.
Mitt Romney is on record from 2011, during a GOP primary debate, saying that he believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be shut down. Romney was asked whether its responsibilities should be given to the states or even the private sector. Romney said, “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 asked, “Including disaster relief, though?” Romney said, “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.”
Basically, Romney wants to allow the private sector to handle the disaster in New York and, indeed, all up and down the Eastern seaboard. Perhaps it’s because Romney thinks that the kind of disaster that occurred because of Sandy is virtually impossible. In fact, as Forbes reported in August, Romney treated the “rising sea levels” that we’re 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 wanted us all to forget that; post-Sandy, it continued 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—Mitt Romney 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. And Romney is the face of the Republican Party; his beliefs are theirs.
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 circumstances that these people are in, knowing that next time it could be you, are you really ready to support a party who will blithely take it all away? And why shouldn’t they? Romney and the rest can take care of themselves. They don’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.