The headline in this morning’s New York Times is unequivocal: “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.”
Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.
Yes, because government bureaucrats in Washington know where to disperse rescue resources better than local municipalities or states, or something.
But that’s not all — Hurricane Sandy’s devastation is apparently also an opportunity for liberals to rally against Mitt Romney and his evil plans to return emergency response funds to the states:
Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.
“Absolutely,” he said. “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.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.
It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning.
Likewise, the Times uses the storm as an opportunity to praise President Barack Obama and big government, and their understanding of conservative ideology is hilariously absurd (emphasis mine):
The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.
I want to give them the benefit of the doubt; I don’t want to believe that the editorial board of the New York Times has such ridiculously simplistic (and wrong) thinking. But holy crap.
Don’t even try to understand why people might disagree with your policy preferences. No, no — the New York Times believes it’s best to just lump all of those people into two main categories: evil or just plain stupid. The Old Gray Lady has forfeited intellectual debate based in reason and facts, preferring instead “I’m rubber and you’re glue” editorial jabs. Nice.
For the sake of rubbing the New York Times‘ face in it, let’s look at a couple of facts.
1. Federal disaster coordination is frequently less effective than locally directed efforts. Writing for The Atlantic, Emily C. Skarbek, director of MyGovCost.org and assistant professor of economics at San Jose State University, has argued that the problems of federal disaster management go far beyond bureaucracy:
FEMA consistently responds to political influence rather than the victims’ needs. Economists Thomas Garrett and Russell Sobel studied FEMA’s policies and found that disaster expenditures are strongly determined by whether the states affected are important to the president’s reelection and whether the local congressional representatives are members of FEMA oversight committees. In their study, Garrett and Sobel found that nearly half of all expenditures are determined by political considerations rather than identifying and executing an appropriate need-based response.
2. Federal funding for disaster relief is about $10 billion per year. This means that the Times‘ defense of “big government” rests on about 1/380th of its total cost.
3. Mitt Romney doesn’t even want to abolish FEMA. And for a guy who apparently hates poor people, it’s worth mentioning that he donated his own campaign bus to help get aid to those who need it most. But I’m sure the Times would argue that he’s only doing it for political reasons. Of course the Times would never do anything to score political points — except for publishing editorials like this that effectively campaign on behalf of Barack Obama.
I’d be willing to bet the NYTimes isn’t even out delivering papers in the disaster zones this morning, which is truly a shame. With so many people stuck indoors, they could use the pages when their pets have to take a crap.