Yesterday's New York Times editorial: "A Big Storm Requires a Big Government":
Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of "big government," which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.
"Absolutely," he said. "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." 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.
Well, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Mitt Romney has no intention of eliminating FEMA but don't wait for the retraction. Instead, examine Romney's words in context, quoted in full by the WSJ:
"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 ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in."
FEMA, which began as an agency that would show up a few days after a disaster to assist victims with filling out federal forms has morphed into a $10 billion monstrosity that actually gets in the way sometimes of state level relief efforts. And the Journal makes this valid point:
This isn't an argument for abolishing FEMA so much as it is for the traditional federalist view that the feds shouldn't supplant state action. As it happens, the response to Hurricane Sandy has been a model of such a division of responsibility.
Citizens in the Northeast aren't turning on their TVs, if they have electricity, to hear Mr. Obama opine about subway flooding. They're tuning in to hear Governor Chris Christie talk about the damage to the Jersey shore, Mayor Mike Bloomberg tell them when bus service might resume in New York City, and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy say when the state's highways might reopen.
Energetic governors and mayors are best equipped to handle disaster relief because they know their cities and neighborhoods far better than the feds ever will, and they know their citizens will hold them accountable. The feds can help with money and perhaps expertise.
The larger liberal fallacy here is that effective government requires bigger government. Americans expect a government, at whatever level, to do its core functions well. But the bigger and more costly the government, the more likely it is to do more things poorly.
The left sees federalism - deliberately or stupidly - as akin to "stats' rights" - which is a dog whistle for the droolers and mouth breathers in their base meaning the GOP will bring back Jim Crow or some such nonsense. In fact, federalism will be our salvation. It will make government more efficient while stripping Washington of performing functions better left to the states or the private sector.
Government is about making choices. Liberals refuse to make any choices which is why the president, if re-elected, will fail in bringing the deficit under control.