As New York and the rest of the Eastern seaboard get back on their feet after taking a pounding from Superstorm Sandy, the rest of the country ought to pay attention to the relief efforts from the federal government, specifically FEMA.
FEMA became the poster child for incompetence during President Bush's reign in 2005, when – late and ineffective – FEMA was woefully ill prepared to handle the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
President Obama took a more proactive approach -- a trend that seems to be developing in this election -- and got the word out early, describing the magnitude and effect the storm could have, and preparing those on the ground in advance of the storm to mitigate damages. Incredibly, this move was criticized by Mike Brown, the director of FEMA during the Bush-Katrina fiasco, as being premature.
This is vital, because the Romney/Ryan budget will gut FEMA and leave it to individual states or private companies to handle natural disasters.
Proponents of federal or local government must see a problem with individual states handling disaster relief, even if local governance is a cause worth discussing as a whole. Phones, power, and internet are gone, so there goes communication with neighboring relief efforts, whose plans may or may not align with yours. That's a bigger problem. Natural disasters generally affect many states, and trying to coordinate relief with varying outside groups with different plans, strategies and goals, will slow needed aid.
Opening the door to private companies leads to a litany of questions, like what troops will they send in? What emergency services will they use? If the answer is the troops and services already in place, then why are we handing power to command those entities to someone we did not elect?
But aside from the practical questions, the bigger problem is that private enterprise doesn't have the investment in people the way government does. Private companies have to make money to survive, and I'm not sure where the money gets made in disaster relief, but that opens another pandora's box, including, what happens when your house and your family don't fall within the private companies' budget?
(The same can be asked of the federal government's budget, as well, but that's why you can vote for someone else, which you can't do at Halliburton, for example.)
That is a key difference between the Obama government and the possible Romney government. Romney has shown time and time again his preference for money and fiscal gain over human beings (Romney even refers to us by economic class – "middle-income people").
Obama's government has shown stronger human investment during his tenure, and while the economy is not as strong as anyone hoped, a major holdup is political inefficiency and Congress’ refusal to make decisions and help the economy – specifically the GOP leaders . With America's penchant for playing politics between the 45-yard lines, it's likely that the country will get there either way, as we've seen both Democratic and Republican leadership boost the economy.
But now isn't the time to let businesses make the rules – we've seen how that goes – and throw our government to the wind, even though that's exactly what Romney and Ryan would like to do.