When you think about it, it really is that simple. And the hurricane clarified it.
For most congressional Republicans today and their active supporters, government routinely infringes upon personal liberty, undermines self-reliance and is generally inefficient and incompetent. Since government is the problem, taxes should be cut, regulations reduced and—somehow—all be well in time. How that will happen is a matter of faith, not evidence. Republicans would roll back health care coverage for more than 30 million Americans who will finally obtain it through “Obamacare.” They deny the overwhelming scientific consensus about the threat of climate change. The economic plan consists of vague “free market” generalities.
People who don’t believe in government don’t run it well. That’s one lesson from the George W. Bush administration. That’s why, given the enormous challenges of making the federal government work well, it should be left in the hands of those who are willing to try.
…But everyone lives off the government teat to some degree – even (one might even say especially) the very rich who have been the core supporters of both the Bush presidency and Romney’s campaign. Many are industrial leaders who would revolt tomorrow if their giant free R&D program known as the federal military budget were to be scaled back even a few percentage points. Mitt’s buddies on Wall Street would cry without their bailouts and dozens of lucrative little-known subsidies (like the preposterous ability of certain banks to act as middlemen in transactions when the government lends money to itself).
And if it’s not outright bailouts or guarantees keeping the rich rich, it’s selective regulation and carefully-carved-out protections from competition – like the bans on drug re-importation or pharmaceutical price negotiation for Medicare that are keeping the drug companies far richer than they would be, in the pure free-market paradise their CEOs probably espouse at dinner parties.
The evolution of this whole antigovernment movement has been fascinating to watch. People who grew up in public schools, run straight to the embassy the instant they get a runny nose overseas, stuff burgers down their throats without worrying about E. Coli and sleep happily in planes they know have been inspected by the FAA… can with straight faces make the argument that having to pay any taxes at all is tyranny. It’s almost as if people feel the need to announce that they don’t need any help with anything, ever – not even keeping bridges safe or drinking water clean.
It’s this weird national paranoia about being seen as needy, or labeled a parasite who needs government aid, that leads to lunacies like the idea that having a strong disaster-relief agency qualifies as a “big government” concept, when in fact it’s just sensible. If everyone could just admit that government is a fact of life, we could probably do a much better job of fixing it and managing its costs. Instead, we have to play this silly game where millions of us pretend we’re above it all, that we don’t walk on regularly-cleaned streets or fly in protected skies. It shouldn’t take a once-in-a-generation hurricane for Americans to admit they need the government occasionally, but that’s apparently where we are.
As Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast this week, the so-called “Frankenstorm” exposed the dark underbelly of Mitt Romney’s plans to delegate core federal responsibilities to the states and to blindly impose a 5 percent, across-the-board budget cut to all discretionary programs “excluding military.” The true impact of a Romney presidency would be a federal government ill-equipped to coordinate a response to a regional natural disaster like this one, and agencies hobbled in their ability to provide storm forecasting, emergency housing – even Superfund cleanup in the toxic aftermath of a storm.
Here are the five most damaging cuts that a President Romney would seek “on Day One” from the agencies that are essential for federal storm response:
- FEMA: Cut $500 million
- NOAA: Cut $255 million
- SuperFund: Cut $60 million
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Cut $50 million – There were 16 nuclear power plants in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Enough said.
- HUD: Cut $2.05 billion
Read details at the link…