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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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FEDs vs. Frankenstorm

Uploaded: Oct 31, 2012
I'm not a big devotee of conspiracy theories, human-or-divinely inspired. People are generally unable to either collaborate adequately or keep a secret, and my Deity acts with greater compassion and subtlety. Thus I think Oswald acted alone, and I reject the notion that STDs and AIDS were sent here to enforce social norms. 'Karma' is a more intriguing concept, but it's also an article of faith to convince myself that some good deed, paid-forward into the universe, will redound to my benefit, someday. All that said, I DO think that a timely object lesson from Mother Nature ought not to go unlearned.

The role of government has been a big topic in this Presidential campaign, with contrasting models characterizing it as either a compassionate servant of the national community, or an indolent, sloppy public enemy number-one. Although the public sector has already shrunk by some 500,000 jobs since 2009, it is clear that the GOP longs to further restructure government with all the sobriety of the Texas chain-saw massacre.

Among the services specifically identified for excision by Mr. Romney is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is, after all, a spawn of the Carter era, raised to cabinet status by Mr. Clinton, and then demoted into a branch of Homeland Security by President Bush, the Younger. Its leading bureaucrat at that time would have been suited to respond to a crisis in the thoroughbred horse sector, but was woefully ill-equipped for the greater task of leading assistance to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina. The current Administration re-energized the agency, and appointed an actual careerist in emergency response, who had previously been appointed Florida's disaster chief by then-Governor Jeb Bush (bi-partisans, take note).

FEMA looks like an agency that can be jettisoned, as it's only needed episodically – whenever a flood ravages the Mississippi Valley, say, or a hurricane or tornado rumbles through the southeast, or, dare I say it – a big one rattles us locally. Thus it was, during an interim period between disasters, that the aspiring candidate Mr. Romney called-for the agency's elimination, by name, saying further that "any time you can send these things back to the states, then that's the right direction." He further suggested that the private sector might be even better to handle the job.

Trouble is, when you need FEMA, you Really Need FEMA. As our nation becomes ever more heavily populated and interwoven, disasters aren't becoming less difficult or expensive to fix. By analogy, rural communities can get by with a volunteer fire-fighting corps, but cities really do benefit from a professional, centralized, governmental Fire Department. And I will stick my neck out and say that natural disasters aren't getting any smaller, either – driven by the Phenomenon That Shall Not Speak Its Name.

Another problem with state-only administration of emergency–response is that calamities are notoriously unimpressed by state lines. The Mississippi River system touches at least eighteen states, for example, and a typical east coast hurricane will impact at least that many separate jurisdictions.

Finally, let's assume the Feds punt FEMA to the cash-strapped states – who will be there to catch it? Where would it fit, say, in the budget-sinkhole of our fair state? Further, if somebody Was there, why would it be more efficient to have 50 stand-by clusters of lesser expertise, than one mobile capability?

Enter Frankenstorm Sandy, an horrendous amalgamation of a late-day hurricane, a Canadian blizzard and some other meteorological feature I don't recall. It made landfall among the Mid-Atlantic states, has proceeded to inundate New York, cut power to many millions of Americans, and dump several feet of snow in the Appalachians – so far. New Jersey has been decimated and I suspect the only reason we haven't heard from my poor native sand-spit of Delaware is that it may have been washed-out to sea entirely.

By all accounts, including that of NJ Republican Governor Christie, FEMA's diverse on-site assistance, financial relief services and coordination of/with local jurisdictions have worked very well to ameliorate the suffering that has befallen the east this week – and may visit itself upon us one day. As someone with a daughter in New York City, I am particularly grateful that my tax dollars will flow there, this time. It provides a timely lesson in why we have Government and how it can serve our most dire needs as a national community. Yes, it costs tax money, but it is also the kind of insurance policy whose existence can be a literal matter of life-or-death. To eliminate it would allow the unthinking to do the unthinkable.

We would ignore this recent lesson at our great peril. Please be sure to vote next week.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 31, 2012 at 9:43 am

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

Correction: the public sector has lost 600,000 jobs since 2009, nnot 500,000. Web Link I meant to check that stat before going 'live.' My bad.

Posted by Lets Go A's!, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 31, 2012 at 9:56 am

Josh Reddick won the gold glove for right field!!

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

Romney never said we should abolish FEMA.

If you have a problem with cutting FEMA?s budget, you should talk to Obama. Obama proposes to cut FEMA?s budget by 6% in 2013.

The number of FEMA disaster declarations per year have risen exponentially:

Obama: 153 / yr.
GW Bush: 129.6 / yr.
Clinton: 89.5 / yr.
Reagan: 28 / yr.

Web Link

Maybe taxpayers and storm victims would be better served if FEMA devoted itself to helping out in the biggest disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, and not dive in at every political request for assistance.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

S-P: Your alternate universe is showing. Either that, or perhaps you are confusing Mr. Romney's utterly clear pre-Sandy position with his current one -- it's easy to do; there are so many examples. So to clarify, here's the transcript of the GOP Primary Debate, way back last year:

Moderator KING: What else, Governor Romney? You?ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I?ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it?s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we?re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: 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. We cannot?

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot?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.

weblink: Web Link

It couldn't be clearer if it was written on his forehead. And is the rankest sophistry to pretend that passage does not call for FEMA to be abolished. I just know they teach folks better than that at BYU. I would much rather have an obviously effective 94% FEMA than leave all those millions of Americans to flounder in the dark. Smells like fiscal-responsibility spirit to me.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm


Is that the best you?ve got?? Romney hates FEMA? lol.

This was your LAST column before the election. You should?ve made it count.

I think Obama would be disappointed. ha ha

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Are you kidding, S-P? He's not disappointed. In fact, he dictated it to me -- right off the teleprompter! Gov. Christie was right there with him, too. He says 'hi.' Apparently he didn't get the memo from Sen. McConnell.

I could've said that the firewall is not only holding, but expanding as Virginia is now back among Obama's likelies, but I was trying to spare your feelings.

Then I read Your sorry excuse for an argument, above. Weak sauce, Romney-boy. Think of it as Mother Nature's October Surprise.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I was just thinking you could?ve tried the ?Blame Bush? angle one last time, as it has been working so well and it never gets old.

For example, if you must talk about Hurricane Sandy, why not blame it on Bush?


Everyone knows Bush and his conservative allies on the Supreme Court stole the 2000 election. Had President Gore been allowed to serve two terms before Pres. Obama, they would?ve solved climate change and New York City wouldn?t be underwater right now.

You see?! It really is all Bush?s fault!!! Ha ha.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm

S-P: I don't need to make that argument -- somebody named Danville Independent already did that quite well, in the Favorite Presidents thread, here: Web Link

Besides, there's so much other good news for Mr. Obama: the jobs report demonstrating "persistent growth," the Bloomberg endorsement, widening leads in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada, VA coming around, the auto execs coming down with both feet on the latest Romnic lies about GM and Jeep, the positive early voting returns, Mr. Mourdock's self-immolation -- why, the list goes on-and-on.

That Indiana situation is particularly interesting -- it may be a repeat of Delaware 2010, where the GOP Primary ousted the widely respected Mike Castle in favor of Ms. O'Donnell, who then went down in flames in the general election. I liked Senator Lugar; and he certainly deserved a better retirement party.

There's all that -- plus my daughter called early this AM to announce that she'd passed the NY Bar! W00t!! So no, you'll not get my goat today.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm


I was just trying to help you out. Make your column a little bit better, if that?s possible.

In all seriousness, I think there will be a big group of people who will be shocked next week. No doubt you saw Karl Rove go out on a limb a couple days ago and predict a strong Romney win.

Gallup says 71% of Republicans think Romney will win. When I speak to my Republican friends, they think the polls are rigged and are COMPLETELY CONVINCED that not only will Romney win, but win big. A landslide.

Meanwhile, Gallup says 86% of Democrats think Obama will win.

Gallup says 54% of Americans think Obama will win.

Personally, I think Obama will be re-elected, notwithstanding my rants against him and notwithstanding the poor job you?ve done being an Obama cheerleader. I had lunch today with a friend who shares a lot of my political views. He reads Drudge Report & WSJ. He told me he?s voting Obama. If Romney can?t convince a guy like that, he?s sunk.

Congrats to your daughter for passing the bar and becoming a lawyer. The world can never have enough lawyers.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thanks, S-P -- I'll pass along your regards to her. I have to warn you though, she claims to like my columns (then again, I've demonstrated repeatedly that I'm easily fooled by my daughters).

Thanks, as well, for the kind words about my 'cheerleading,' since that was never my intent. I just calls 'em like I sees 'em. We'll have other things to kick around after next week.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 3, 2012 at 4:27 pm

What I liked best about the Bloomberg endorsement was that he noted that Romney has held many reasonable positions, but has abandoned all of them......king of the flip-floppers. And, he has changed them not out of principle, but because he had a different audience.

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