Disaster Relief is Immoral According to Mitt Romney?
Actually, that’s not quite what he said. He that borrowing money to pay for disaster relief is immoral. He also said that disaster relief should be left up to the states or even privatized. Mr Romney is wrong on several levels, scary wrong in fact. On the top level he is wrong for implying that it’s wrong for the Federal Government to be involved in disaster relief. Protecting the people of America from threats is the government’s job for God’s sake, how can that not include natural disasters? And I am talking natural disasters here, huge events that affect large areas, multiple states in many cases. The whole point of being in a tribe is that the tribe looks out for itself, hell; it’s the whole point of civilization, people cooperating for the common good. I know Mr Romney wasn’t quite saying “disaster victims had it coming, so they can take care of themselves” … but he’s awful close. And he is giving at least tacit support for those that do say such infantile nonsense.
On a more practical level, it’s simply cheaper and more effective to have major federal resources that can be used in the event of a regional disaster. If each state had to entirely take care of its own disaster relief there would be fabulous duplication of effort as each state tried to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Disaster preparedness would also vary wildly between states, they differ greatly in both size, wealth, and prevalence of natural disasters. Again, note I’m not saying that states shouldn’t have disaster relief plans, I’m saying it only makes sense to have preparation and resources on multiple levels. For example a state could suffer a disaster so great that even ample local disaster preparation is overwhelmed. Having a central agency to both send in government resources and coordinate rescue efforts from other states is going to speed up recovery efforts and save lives. I find it hard to believe that some people think the government shouldn’t save lives, even so, simply from an economic standpoint everyone in the country benefits if the affected areas are brought back to normalcy as soon as possible so that normal economic activity can resume. Right? The sooner people can get back to work … the sooner they start paying taxes again. Humanitarian concerns aside, it still makes perfect sense to use the federal government resources to get a disaster affected region back on its feet.
The privatization remark is frankly, somewhere between weird and deceptive. First of all, we have privatized disaster relief. They are called insurance companies, any individual or business that wants to avail themselves of their services is welcome to do so. Since this is the case, I can only assume Mr Romney thinks that federal and state governments, instead of taking care of disaster relief directly, take out insurance policies on infrastructure and such? Really? So in the event of a natural disaster all the president or governor has to do is call an insurance agent? It takes very little imagination to see how that might go wrong. It also means that huge companies will profit from natural disasters. Again, think about some of the implications of that. Privatizing disaster relief isn’t just an impractical idea, it’s downright immoral on some levels. Note I am not saying that governments shouldn’t make full use of private contractors when the need arises for disaster relief, I’m saying that the government needs to be able to do whatever is necessary to save lives and respond to a natural disaster in a timely and effective way, and that it can’t leave such decisions up to private companies motivated purely by profit.
Lastly we come to the idea that borrowing money for disaster relief is wrong. Excuse me? First of all, since the government has been running a deficit for decades, this argument could be used against any government spending. Right off the bat that’s a sign of a weak argument. And it’s also a sign of a failure to understand that borrowing money is how business is done in the USA. An entrepreneur borrows money to build a factory, and if they are successful, they profit and the lender profits. Borrowing money is at the freaking core of capitalism, modern business couldn’t do without it. And the economic payoffs from disaster relief are enormous, getting commerce back on its feet quickly after a disaster is going to increase wages and taxes, a much better return than a lot of other government spending.
In conclusion, Mr Romney’s thinking on disaster relief is either blatantly deceptive, propaganda for insurance companies and other wealthy interests that would benefit from his policies … or it’s alarmingly naive and sophomoric. I see no other options.
(The above image is a shark swimming through the streets of New Jersey flooded by Hurricane Sandy. Poor shark. Of course it’s a fake, though such is possible. Many fake Sandy photos have been circulating, many of them can be viewed here. New Jersey was the site of the original shark attacks in 1916 that inspired jaws, one of which occurred in a creek 16 miles from the sea!)