FEMA to the rescue: why Obama is right and Romney was wrong

Republican Governor Chris Christie praised President Obama for his swift response to his call for help for New Jersey and will tour the devastation with him. Photo: Gov. Christie and President Obama during 2011 visit after Hurricane Irene AP

WASHINGTON, October 30, 2012 — FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is showing the country just how well big government works. Without FEMA’s assistance and know how, which our tax dollars support, the cities and states along the Eastern seaboard and even some of the Midwest states would truly be devastated.

States are already requesting help to get this through this calamitous period. This is the job of the government: to secure the safety of its people in times of disasters, natural or otherwise. FEMA is actually part of Homeland Security, which makes sense.

One state that was perhaps hit the hardest was New Jersey and it needed help fast, really fast. Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, not a big fan of the President, was one of the first governors to publicly thank President Obama for his speedy response to his request.

Governor Christie’s High Praise for the President

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the governor said that he was delighted by how responsive the President had been to his requests for help. He said he was called three times on Monday by Obama and the President promised to expedite his Major Disaster Declaration for New Jersey so federal funds could reach the state even faster. And it happened as quickly as he promised.

Hurricane Sandy sent New Jersey houses adrift AP

“The president has been all over this, and he deserves great credit,” Christie added. “He gave me his number at the White House and told me to call him if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it. It’s been very good working with the president and his administration. It’s been wonderful.”

President Obama will be touring the New Jersey devastation with Gov. Christie today.

That was a perfect example of the famous quote, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” But in fact, it is not only states that can receive help, so can individuals, families, farmers, and businesses, all eligible for federal assistance if they reside in an area declared a disaster by the President. That assistance can include addressing their housing needs whether it is temporary housing or repairs to money available for everything from disaster-related funeral and burial expenses to heating fuel to clothing and furniture. The place to look and apply is at FEMA’s website.

Even before Hurricane Sandy struck with such crippling effect, FEMA had already sent 139 ambulances to New York by Monday, delivered hundreds of thousands of meals and bottled water for the residents of southern New Jersey. Plus search and rescue teams were ready to go before the hurricane hit the U.S. while inspectors were in all of our nuclear power plants in the affected areas.

FEMA Makes Sure Cities and States Recover

When states request federal help after being declared a disaster area such as the destruction that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake, FEMA can respond to them, providing supplemental assistance through 12 major support functions ranging from transportation to energy needs to food to fire fighting to search and rescue.

Millions of dollars will then flow directly to the state to use for its first responders and for clean up and rebuilding. No state can undertake such a massive job without help from the federal government and states know best just where those dollars must go once they receive them. It is a true partnership and is an example of how well our government can work.

But it takes money. Lots of money. More than a state could possibly have, especially smaller states after a pummeling  by a natural disaster.

Romney and Ryan’s Budgets Would Decimate FEMA

And yet last spring during the Republican primary debate, Governor Mitt Romney was asked about FEMA and he said he would do away with it and that the money belongs in the states and even better with the private sector. Since Sandy slammed a good third or more of the country and governors like Chris Christie are turning to the federal government, the Romney folks are now dialing back their candidate’s position somewhat, sort another flip and a flop.

Hurricane Sandy submerged NY subway stations AP

But Romney’s own budget plan slashes federal spending on everything by 20% of the GDP, everything but defense and entitlements. That would be like a Frankenstorm ramming into FEMA, basically wiping it out.

And his running mate, the man he hand picked for his conservative credentials, Congressman Paul Ryan, has a budget plan to basically gut FEMA as well.

Yet it is times like these, when Americans realize that despite our rugged individualism and the belief that neighbors should help neighbors in times of need that there are events in our lives that overwhelm the most rugged of us, the most self-sufficient, and the helping hand of a neighbor just isn’t enough.

Governors know this, which is why they were on the phone with the President asking for government help. Romney, having been a governor himself, should appreciate this or perhaps he didn’t experience that once in a lifetime event in Massachusetts. But he has had to seen it happen time and again in other states from earthquakes to floods to tornados to oil spills. Having a big heart and even a big checkbook, just isn’t enough.

It’s time for us to recognize some basic truths about what makes America great. It’s those first responders from nurses to fire fighters to the National Guard to the Army Corps of Engineers. Talk about exceptionalism, they are that and more. And it takes money, our tax dollars, to ensure they can do their job exceptionally well.

Americans need Uncle Sam at their side and he was there once again this week.  

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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