Hurricane Sandy and No We Can’t


Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.

It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen.

The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result insevere cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which wouldcut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

You know what? Fuck this. People should pay for their bad decisions? Okay. And THEN WHAT? God Almighty, then what? Then they’ll have paid, and there will still be flood water over everything, and people will be broke and homeless, but hey, at least we can go to sleep at night knowing somebody’s paid … how? What is the practical benefit to anybody of saying to someone who’s been fucked over by nature or life too bad, so sad, I’mma take the ten bucks we would have spent on that and throw it at Starbucks?

I do not GET THIS. I don’t. What the TITS. When a disaster strikes I want big government, small government, medium-sized government. I want all the government ever. I want the neighbors and the charities and the churches and the families and the friends, too. Every crack in the plaster needs to be patched and every problem needs to be solved, and I want as many people putting that puzzle together as possible. All hands on the fucking deck. Here’s a bucket. Start bailing the water out.

I wanteverybody to be figuring out how to do more, instead of fighting over the best way to do less without looking like too much of an asshole about it.

And you know, I think the majority of Americans want this, too. It’s just that for the past 40 years we’ve had this constant drumbeat of no we can’t, it’s too hard, we can’t afford it, everybody fends for themselves, there’s no help for anybody, let’s all just go home and if you have to step over a homeless dude to get to your car then do it because that’s the price of doing business. People deserve to have their homes submerged and their shops wiped out and their lives ruined because of where they live or what they do or who they are, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, because only government is big enough to solve this problem and we all know government isn’t the answer to anything anymore.

But deep down we’ve still got that nagging feeling that somebody somewhere ought to be on top of shit, that most of the time people don’t deserve what they get (and thank God for that, by the way, she says while conducting the express train to hell), that we are better and bigger and stronger than this, and we’re just straining against the goddamn harness to do something. And disaster preparedness and emergency management are some of the most basic things government can do to prevent us from tearing ourselves apart when something shitty happens, to take that instinct and direct it outward instead of inward.

To make us help, rather than letting us hurt.


17 thoughts on “Hurricane Sandy and No We Can’t

  1. If people have to pay for their bad decisions, then it’s the climate-change deniers who should be paying for this whole thing.

  2. Rmoney wants the vulture capitalists to make money on disaster. That’s their modus operandi. That’s why he’s previously said that disaster relief ought to be left up to the private sector.
    To the Rmoneybot, everything should create profits for his partners in crime.

  3. On the plus side, if Halliburton and Xe start doing disaster relief and rebuilding work, pallets full of cash can disappear in America, too!

  4. The “bad decision” in this case was locating New York City next to the water. I guess Peter Minuit needs to take the fall for that.

  5. They want to win battles, short and long term. They know full well that when/if they succeed with taking out FEMA or Medicaire or whatever safety net, they’ll maximize the short term victory, and when the shit hits the fan later, they’ll just spin it in such a way to make it look like they were the victims, or they “had” to burn the village to save the village or some such shit.
    The biggest part of the problem is not that people want to do this stuff, it’s that anyone in public office can say ANYTHING about ANYTHING and get away it because there is enough of a critical mass of idiots in the citizenry who reside in a permeant construct inside which they have lost the capacity to think for themselves and can be convinced of anything. And will, conveniently enough, forget what they’ve learned at one point and be manipulated into a 180* degree contradiction in six months.

  6. If people have to pay for their bad decisions, then it’s the climate-change deniers who should be paying for this whole thing.
    Posted by: Hecate | October 30, 2012 at 07:35
    Those people (and yes I called them idiots and I think they are) are still our brothers and sisters. We gain nothing by excluding them from humanity and compassion. The guy who is anti-union and votes for the Rs who shut down his factory and is now working two jobs and planning to vote R again is still my brother, and I am still responsible for him.

  7. By law, a corporation must make its decisions (or rather the CEO or board must make decisions) as to maximize profits for the shareholders.
    In the case of a disaster do you really want the emergency response to based strictly on the profit/cost?
    And with the tapes of Romney speaking on FEMA in 2011, his showing up in the area would absolutely be perceived as a cynical political ploy. Hopefully the people would boo him. (Christie in NJ has even said that Romney shouldn’t come as Christie has his hands full).
    I would like to think that Romney could show up and learn / get a dose of compassion. But based on his past lack of ability in this, I don’t see this happening. (see dog on roof of car; see him telling folk that his father fired them; see him equating his years in France to a Vet who served in Nam…)

  8. “No, we can’t afford it.”
    Especially in the case of the richest nation on this planet, in its history, talking about taking care of people? Bullshit — of the most self-serving kind politically.
    What can we really NOT afford?
    We really can not afford to cut funding for education. We really can not afford to cut funding for disaster relief. We really can not afford to cut funding for planetary science, and space exploration, and research into cancer cures, and ways to make our transportation work better for more people on less fuel.
    We really cannot afford to shortchange our future, especially by claiming some moral authority to prevent further borrowing from China, or something, when we’re still fighting land wars in Asia and paying our Congressional Representatives $250K plus per head per year.

  9. Virgotex – you’re getting close to a question of mine.
    For years (and I really ran into it over a decade ago for a State Govt Agency), even before they put their mantra into words, they started trying to shrink/ starve / underfund govt functions and agencies so that they could drown them in a bathtub.
    Then when the agency had insufficient resources to do its job well, they would go on the offensive about how govt doesn’t work. Well of course an underfunded agency doesn’t work well. If you want the agency to join the end of the 20th century and work with all the new tools, you’re gonna have to invest some money. What would any business look like if it makes insufficient investments in itself?
    How can they do this with any sense of fairness? How can they escape the fact that they are the ones running govt – so the failure of an agency reflects on their governance?
    Admittedly, I’m talking about fairness and logic in reference to the politicos.

  10. If the private sector handled disaster relief water would be $5 a gallon and plywood would cost $200 a sheet in advance of a hurricane. That’s why we have laws against price gouging in an emergency.

  11. “The disaster of Hurricane Katrina”–by which you mean, the response to the flooding. But your phrase is a misnomer, and it was waiting to happen only because the Army Corps of Engineers, which built the “hurricane protection system” for New Orleans, made a four-decade-plus series of spectacular engineering mistakes, miscalculations and misjudgments. Barring those, according to author of one of two independent forensic investigations into the disaster, worst NO would have experienced that year is “wet ankles”, and Brownie would still have his job.

  12. @Harry: We at First Draft are aware of what happened in NOLA and the term was used as a short hand. It’s pedantic and pompous to insist on a term in a post that so clearly supports proper relief and reconstruction efforts. Stick to sticking it to the un-believers.

  13. Harry have you ever read this blog? I’m thinking not and that is disappointing.
    I spent over 3 years writing and doing videos on the federal flood and it’s aftermath. We took a group of our blog readers to NOLA to gut a house. We helped raise over $10K for a family trying to rebuild after they lost their home again…to fire.
    Please check out our coverage in our archives.

  14. And I am one of the original NOLA bloggers and a co-founder of the Rising Tide Conference. We got the cred, street and otherwise.

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