I’m sure by now most of you have seen this video of Mittens calling to abolish FEMA, but here it is again –
The plan is for the federal government to shift responsibility and cost for disaster relief to the states, who will then turn it over to the private sector. Has anyone worked out the business plan for making a profit at disaster relief?
This is not to say that private business can’t respond to disasters, when it wants to. After 9/11, power and phone service was restored quickly to the financial district without Rudy Giuliani even having to ask. You might remember there was less interest in rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina.
Not everything that’s worth doing will make money, especially short term. There are some things that are just cost. Recovery from disaster is a prime example. I suppose the hard-core libertarians will argue that if rebuilding thir or that can’t be done at a profit, then let’s not do it. This is an argument for letting the nation fall into rot, sooner or later.
Effective disaster relief, especially on a large multi-state scale, requires management by people with experience at disaster relief. It makes sense to have a federal agency dedicated to responding to disasters, because such an agency can be staffed by people who are experts at disaster relief and who can coordinate work and resources across state lines.
Ideally, such an agency would not be subject to political machinations. The biggest reason FEMA failed to respond to Katrina is that so many of the pros had quit during the Bush Administration and been replaced by political cronies, and the massive loss of institutional memory and experience rendered FEMA into a bumbling mess.
But that’s why states can’t be expected to do disaster relief on their own, because so many disasters are once-in-a-lifetime phenomena. A state that hasn’t had a really massive flood, fire or storm in the past 20 years can’t be expected to put together an effective disaster management team on the fly.
This seems to obvious to me that I have to wonder about the basic intelligence of anyone who would suggest turning disaster relief entirely over to states, never mind trusting the tender mercies of private business. Of course, today Romney is saying he wouldn’t abolish FEMA. He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says “total bullshit.” He has no convictions; he just makes stuff up as he goes along.
See also Matt Yglesias.