Cutting government in a time of “natural” disasters
Krugman has some words for it (Sandy vs. Katrina):
Consider, in particular, the history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Under President George H. W. Bush, FEMA became a dumping ground for unqualified political hacks. Faced with a major test in the form of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the agency failed completely.
Then Bill Clinton came in, put FEMA under professional management, and saw the agency’s reputation restored.
Given this experience, you might have expected George W. Bush to preserve Mr. Clinton’s gains. But no: he appointed his campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, to head the agency, and Mr. Allbaugh immediately signaled his intention both to devolve disaster relief to the state and local level and to downgrade the whole effort, declaring, “Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level.” After Mr. Allbaugh left for the private sector, he was replaced with Michael “heckuva job” Brown, and the rest is history.
Like Mr. Clinton, President Obama restored FEMA’s professionalism, effectiveness, and reputation. But would Mitt Romney destroy the agency again? Yes, he would. As everyone now knows — despite the Romney campaign’s efforts to Etch A Sketch the issue away — during the primary Mr. Romney used language almost identical to Mr. Allbaugh’s, declaring that disaster relief should be turned back to the states and to the private sector.
The best line on this, I have to admit, comes from Stephen Colbert: “Who better to respond to what’s going on inside its own borders than the state whose infrastructure has just been swept out to sea?”
Ted Rall has a drawing: