As Hurricane Sandy forced evacuations and shut down public transit, New York City bus drivers transported patients to hospitals. Nurses stayed and watched over the sick. First responders marched into danger.
As these public workers were out saving lives, right-wing Republicans like Chris Christie took a break from bashing them. Alas, based on disasters past, we shouldn’t hold our breath for a lasting change of heart.
While political pundits weighed how Mitt Romney could optimize his hurricane optics, a better question got too little play: How can Romney Republicans reconcile their anti-government extremism with actual reality?
If you haven’t watched the video of Romney’s June 2011 debate comments on FEMA, you should. And so should every undecided or under-inspired voter you know. Asked specifically about FEMA—the federal agency responsible for coordinating disaster response—Romney offered a chilling response: “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.”
“Every time”? Talk about unhinged ideology. (As Matt Yglesias notes, this is also terrible economics.) So much for “moderate Mitt.”
After moderator John King asked once more if Romney was referring to “disaster relief,” the vulture capitalist doubled down: “We cannot—we cannot afford to do these things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.” That’s right: Mitt Romney claimed with a straight face that deficit reduction requires de-federalizing or privatizing FEMA. And in an e-mail to The Huffington Post Sunday night, the Romney campaign didn’t exactly Etch-A-Sketch that stance away; instead, a campaign official said states should “have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters.” On Tuesday, when reporters asked the candidate himself about his stance, he simply ignored them.
What would a privatized FEMA look like? Premium service for the 1 percent? Elusive coverage for “high-risk” homes? Emergency services from Halliburton? Let’s pray we never find out.