As we hunker down and gird for Sandy, rest assured that Mitt Romney is rooting for us. In an overnight email, he said we're in his "thoughts and prayers" and that he's "never prouder of America" than when we "pull together in a crisis. There's nothing that we can't handle when we stand together."

 

 

And it's certainly easier for us to pull together and stand together when the federal government has our back. President Obama has already signed the papers that will enable the feds to speedily dispatch federal disaster relief resources to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. In the days ahead, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be on the ground, doing its job, aiding citizens in need.

But remember this: If Romney and his right-wing running mate had their way, there would be no such thing as federal disaster relief.

In their tea-party nirvana, FEMA would be dead. Each state and locality would have to bear the full burden, regardless of whether they had the money and resources to do so. As for all those Republican governors who always beg for FEMA aid during extreme weather crises…forget it, guys. If you want help, go hat in hand to the private sector. In Romney's ideal world, you'd beg in vain for help from Washington. You’d get his "thoughts and prayers," but otherwise, you’d get squat.

Romney himself has said this. Lest we forget (and "low-information" voters have never known it anyway), Romney was candid about his philosophy during a Republican primary debate on June 13, 2011.

Moderator John King: 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.

So there you have it. When King followed up his initial question, just to ensure that Romney had heard him correctly, Romney didn't budge. He said it was "simply immoral" for the feds to provide disaster relief. Even if he was only talking conceptually about the virtues of shrinking the federal government, he refused two specific invitations to carve out an exception for federal disaster relief.

Ron Paul couldn't have said it better. Paul Ryan couldn't have said it better, and, indeed, what Romney said that night was right in sync with the Ryan credo. Ryan's budgertary road map (which is very similar to Romney's) envisions severe cuts to virtually all "non-entitlement, non-defense spending." By definition, that would include the emasculation of FEMA.

As the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded in a report earlier this year, "FEMA also helps states and local governments repair or replace public facilities and infrastructure, which often is not insured. This form of discretionary federal aid would be subject to cuts under the Ryan budget. If it were scaled back substantially, states and localities would need to bear a larger share of the costs of disaster response and recovery, or attempt to make do with less during difficult times." Indeed, when the House GOP was crafting the budget this year, Ryan tried (unsuccessfully) to slash $10 billion in federal disaster relief money. Ryan and his House allies have also slashed FEMA grants by 43 percent since 2010.

When Romney said in June '11 that federal relief was "immoral," maybe he was only pandering, telling the Republican right what it wanted to hear. (A shocking possibility, I know.) But the point is, that's the crowd he plans to roll with. And his crowd thinks that FEMA's role is immoral, that the victims of hurricanes and tornadoes should get no aid and comfort from Washington. (Here's a fascinating experiment: If Romney becomes president, and a hurricane tears through a politically conservative state, I'd like to see him withdraw all FEMA aid, on the grounds that such aid is immoral. How much time would elapse before the aggrieved tea-partyers cry foul and beg for "socialist" help? An hour, tops.)

Anyway, in his email last night - which omitted all mention of federal disaster relief - Romney did offer a neighborly tip ("please be sure to bring any yard signs inside, in high winds they can be dangerous"), and he signed off: "Stay safe and God bless." I sent it to my digital trash bin.

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