By Peter Galuszka
You have to love the Richmond Times-Dispatch. They never miss an opportunity to showcase their beloved Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. As Hurricane Sandy approached, our intrepid governor was pictured everywhere: giving a statement about a state of emergency; looking very leader-like in a command center; appearing concerned as in this TD photo.
I have of course, been reading the Times-Disgrace for many years and once worked for them and have never gotten over their worship of a “governor” especially one from the G.O.P. This seems unique to Richmond. When I worked in other places, I knew who the mayors of Chicago, Cleveland and New York were but the governor just didn’t seem to matter. In Moscow, you sure as vodka knew who Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was, but as to who headed the Moscow oblast, “Kto znaet?
But there’s another reason for Governor worship. The TD is the mouthpiece of the Mainstream Republicans in Virginia and backs Mitt Romney, so they must be sending us subliminal messages that natural catastrophes such as Hurricane Sandy are better off being handled by state governments. Or maybe even better yet, they could be run privatize entities hired by state governments to make the budget look better. Now that’s a concept Baconauts everywhere can sink their teeth into.
However, it does have some problems.
The storm is a major event for New York City and other densely-packed Northeastern areas that could bring $45 billion in damages. Power for millions is shut off. The stock market has been closed. Subways are flooding.
This sounds like a job for Captain America or Superman. But Mitt Romney?
His campaign staff is quickly backing away from the idea he pushed in a 2011 debate that FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter to handle disasters at the federal level, should be chopped back and the money given to states. Here’s what he said back in 2011 asked about such a transfer:
“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 the opposite question, what should we keep?”
Of course, As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney repeatedly asked for FEMA help for such problems as snow removal and so on. So we have Romney asking for FEMA’s help, trashing FEMA and now backing away from trashing FEMA.
Closer to home we have House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who wanted to deny FEMA assistance to people in Joplin, Mo., who suffered devastating tornadoes. The Young Gun’s idea was that before you send in federal bulldozers or bags of ice you have to decide first where to a cut a like amount from the federal government. Given Cantor’s masterful performance on setting the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011, we’d still be looking for cuts and the people of Joplin would still be looking for bags of ice or firewood.
Another issue that has come up: weather satellites. While it seems forecasters were correct in warning of Sandy’s potential wallop, NOAA, which collects weather intelligence, was hampered because we haven’t launched enough satellites to replace those now obsolete or fiery ash after falling in to the atmosphere after their tours were over.
I am sure that some Space Goo-Goos on this blog will find this one big intergalactic free market opportunity for Virginia’s nascent Space Port on the Eastern Shore, but it is hard to see how private enterprise would fund all of this.
As the New York Times says in an editorial this morning, where’s the logic in taking public functions from the cash-poor federal government and transferring them to equally cash-poor states? It’s a budget cutters’ sleight of hand. You’re not cutting, you are transferring.
Gov. Bob knows all about that. But hey, who cares? If he puts his Whiz Bang Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton in charge, we’d not only have safe residents during the storm but when the dust clears we’d have new highways and freshly-privatized port facilities, too. Magic.