Burch: Immoral Aid?

Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:05pm
By Michael R. Burch

Those of us who lived through the Great Nashville Flood can certainly empathize with the victims of the “Frankenstorm” that just hammered millions of Americans, leaving many of them temporarily underwater, without electricity and faced with massive cleanup projects.

One of my favorite political cartoons has a man clinging desperately to his car in a raging flood. His bumper sticker reads GET BIG GOVERNMENT OFF MY BACK! Overhead, a FEMA first-responder is being lowered from a helicopter to save him.

I’m sure that many of my neighbors whose houses ended up underwater were happy to see FEMA workers here, Johnny-on-the-spot, helping to start and coordinate the recovery process.

But it’s quite fashionable these days — especially since the rise of the Tea Party — to complain bitterly about taxes and damn the federal government for anything and everything that doesn’t work out perfectly. If a dime gets wasted on green energy or disaster relief, it’s “obvious” to the lunatic fringe that the federal government is the Devil, President Obama is the Anti-Christ, and Mitt Romney is the Savior.

But is Romney the promised messiah, really? He claims that anything the federal government can do, the states can do better. That statement plays wonderfully well with the “federal government is the Devil” crowd. But when a huge storm strikes, is a centralized federal agency bound to be outperformed by states whose actions are uncoordinated, and probably unfunded? Can we really save money by duplicating FEMA 50 times?

Ironically, when there was relatively minor flooding in Massachusetts, it seems Romney didn’t come close to outperforming FEMA. Far from it.

In 2005, the Green River flooded Greenfield, destroying a trailer park and low-income housing. Greenfield’s Mayor, Christine Forgey, says she didn’t hear from Romney on the first day. A resident turned the high school into a crisis shelter. A radio station launched a food/clothing drive. The Red Cross provided services. But Romney was nowhere to be found. New Hampshire’s Governor, John Lynch, called up the National Guard and cut short his trip to Europe, but Romney couldn’t even be bothered to return Forgery’s phone calls.

Only after heavy criticism from the press did Romney finally visit Greenfield. But Forgey says she never met Romney, because his visit was unannounced. Would FEMA have made that mistake?

Romney got lost, according to John Barrett, who said Romney called him to say that he was in the area when he was actually in the wrong county, an hour away. “I don’t think he understood that was part of the job ... dealing with catastrophic storms,” said Barrett, obviously not convinced that Romney can outperform FEMA professionals.

A year later, floods hit Melrose, displacing 8,000 residents, including hundreds of elderly tenants. According to mayor Rob Dolan, FEMA representatives arrived the next day. But even though Melrose was just minutes from Romney’s house and office, Romney was again nowhere to be found, nor did he ever call Dolan.

So Romney himself illustrates why we really do need FEMA. But his allies, including Paul Ryan, want to either get rid of the agency or slash its funding.

Romney once called it “immoral” to borrow money to help flood victims. However, Romney, a former Mormon Bishop and therefore someone who should presumably understand the term, didn’t call it “immoral” for the federal government to borrow billions to bail out the Olympic games and his rich Wall Street cronies. He obviously doesn’t consider it “immoral” to borrow the better part of $7 trillion to give more tax cuts to the wealthy and increase defense spending for things the Pentagon hasn't even requested. According to Bishop Romney, it seems the only people it’s “immoral” to help are the 47 percent of Americans who need help the most, including flood victims, Detroit auto workers, homeless veterans, the elderly, and girls who need Planned Parenthood’s help with contraceptives and preventive health care.

“Let them eat cake” seems to be Romney’s personal philosophy, but if the past is prelude, it could be a very soggy meal. And now Romney has suddenly gone mum, refusing to respond to reporter questions about FEMA at least 14 times since the Frankenstorm struck. In his next act of magical transformation, Romney will probably emerge costumed as the champion of FEMA first-responders. But I think American voters are surely wising up, by now.

Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

Filed under: City Voices

237 Comments on this post:

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 1:56

Galt is lurking in the shadows again....he never comes out into the daylight to engage anyone here...just occasional sniping....and the same old script.

Welcome to the board, Adman. Ignore the birther, he's our resident racist troll...now he's going out to buy more ammo...hopefully, somebody is keeping tabs on that nut-job.

What is needed in the USA is good old fashioned austerity...unwavering financial discipline and genuine bipartisanship in solving these vexing problems...in other words, forget about it...we are going to hell in the proverbial hand-basket....we Americans don't do "sacrifice" very well.

Our government is unresponsive, because the politicians are on the take to their donors, they are not directly accountable to the people. Our lawmakers are beholden to powerful, selfish, special interest groups....and this is the grim result.

If we do not clean up the campaign "donation" system, then we are doomed....you cannot get real reform when the reformers have all been bribed.

By: Adman on 11/2/12 at 2:01

I wish there was a respond button so I could address each thing individually.
@brrrk. I am not Gordon Gekko, however there are laws of economics that apply. As far as healthcare providers are concerned there are also quality of life issues as well. In your world I suppose a person with a high IQ in math and science should spend 10 years of post graduate work, borrow $200,000 to go to med school, and then work 18 hour days and be paid middle class wages because it is for some sort of common good. Also, in response to your 2cd post, since you see things your way it does make it so? I have never said that my point of view is the only way to look at things, but you sure seem to think your way is.
@blanketnazi, I don't disagree about military spending necessarily. Do we still need all of those cold war bases? That is a legitimate question. Many of them were put there post world war II because the Allies were not about to let Germany and Japan re-arm. Are far enough removed from that now to allow them to defend themselves?

I have said throughout this discussion all of you name calling aside that these are points worthy of debate.

By: brrrrk on 11/2/12 at 2:03

Loner on 11/2/12 at 1:56

"If we do not clean up the campaign "donation" system, then we are doomed....you cannot get real reform when the reformers have all been bribed."

Sad but true... even the ones who are at least trying to do the right thing are subjected to playing the game. Look at what happened to the moderate Republicans who chose to try.... they either left the game or were forced out by the Tea Party.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 2:05

Adman, it's refreshing to have a conversation about the issues for a change!

I believe there are needed spending cuts and revenue needs to increase. We need to do both and nobody is going to be happy with everything. We need healthcare and education to be accessible. We need oversight on entitlement programs and we need government regulation for Wall Street. Those things would be a good start.

By: Mike Burch on 11/2/12 at 2:06

Adman,

I agree that the debate is necessary, and we certainly need to ask how much money we can afford to take in as taxes, how much we can afford to spend, and where the money should go.

My problem with the GOP is that it would spend money unwisely. Romney and Ryan know that appearing to be "strong" appeals to their voter/fan base. So they insist that we need to raise military spending by $2 trillion dollars to build more ships, even though our navy is larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world, COMBINED, and 11 of those navies belong to our allies. Russia has one aircraft carrier. China has one aircraft carrier, and it's an old Russian model that is far from battle-ready against our navy.

The second-largest air force in the world is our navy's air force. We have more weapons than we need, already, and when we use them in major ground wars overseas, we can't win because a few thousand troops cannot create democracies or subdue millions of people.

We need to re-think the role of our military and how we use it. But Romney is fixated on building more ships and in his Citadel speech said that the US must be the "night watchman" of a dark, dangerous world. One reason it's so dark and dangerous is that two military superpowers -- Israel and the US -- try to intimidate and bully other nations into doing their bidding. It hasn't worked and it never will work.

Spending trillions of dollars to be the world's policeman and fight unwinnable wars is a sure recipe for disaster. And yet Romney has reassembled the Bush-era neocons who engineered the invasion of Iraq, and they are talking not only about attacking Iran, but making threats about Russia and China as well.

By: brrrrk on 11/2/12 at 2:14

Adman said

"As far as healthcare providers are concerned there are also quality of life issues as well. In your world I suppose a person with a high IQ in math and science should spend 10 years of post graduate work, borrow $200,000 to go to med school, and then work 18 hour days and be paid middle class wages because it is for some sort of common good."

Nobody has ever suggested that people like doctors shouldn't be compensated fairly, but I wonder, would you apply the same standards to Clergymen? Firemen risk their lives everyday for a pittance of what they actually deserve. And personally, given the choice between a doctor that makes a million a year and one who actually gives a shit.... I'll go for the guy that gives a shit.

"Also, in response to your 2cd post, since you see things your way it does make it so? I have never said that my point of view is the only way to look at things, but you sure seem to think your way is."

And yet you've not provided an example of ONE thing that the government does that ISN'T at it's core a type of service......

By: brrrrk on 11/2/12 at 2:15

Adman said

"I wish there was a respond button so I could address each thing individually."

Cut and paste seems to work......

By: Adman on 11/2/12 at 2:18

@Mike Burch, I recognize that there are haters, and I don't come on here as an apologist for the Republicans. That being said both sides exercise a great deal of hyperbole in any discussion. I am not an anarchist, I don't believe in no gov't. I do believe however that we need to control the size and scope of the fed gov't. I understand to a liberal it is heresy to suggest that we might be able to downsize FEMA or any other Fed agency for that matter. However, in saying that we could look at FEMA and see if it is really accomplishing it's mission is not the same thing as saying we should not provide disaster relief. I marvel at liberals because they talk all the time about varying shades of gray, but when it comes to govt programs it's all black and white. You are either 100% behind the idea or you totally opposed, there can be no in between. We have significant budget issues in this country. Right now there is not enough income to tax to solve them. I recognize that we will likely never reduce the actual size of the Fed Gov't but we have control the growth. In my view there is only one way to do that, get the economy growing (and no I don't consider 2% GDP growth to be any where near the levels we need), get people back to work, both of which will increase tax revenue, and keep the rate of growth of Gov't below the growth of tax receipts. Gradually we will reduce our deficits.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 2:19

Loner; John Galt is a ghost troll.

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 2:19

Let us not forget that the three most powerful lobbies in Washington are international or foreign-based. I'm talking about the DIE super lobby: Defense, Israel & Energy....their selfish interests overlap in the Middle East....we can expect these oil-fired holy wars to continue for the foreseeable future....unless we have an Armageddon event...in that case, it's back to nuts & berries...hunting & gathering.....survival at all costs....dog eat dog....the Second Stone Age.

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 2:26

Adman, what have you to say about the failure of the "Super Committee" last year? That august bipartisan group was supposed to find a way to avoid the looming "financial cliff".....they failed to deliver and there was scarcely a peep about it in the media....what are your thoughts on that?

By: Adman on 11/2/12 at 2:29

Adman, what have you to say about the failure of the "Super Committee" last year? That august bipartisan group was supposed to find a way to avoid the looming "financial cliff".....they failed to deliver and there was scarcely a peep about it in the media....what are your thoughts on that?

It seems to me that both sides are willing to play chicken with the future of America to "win"

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 2:34

We are facing new and more dangerous weather and weather patterns. City, State and Federal governments will be dealing with an every change force of Mother Nature. Governments will have to step in and look for new ways of reducing the destruction of future storms and means for a faster recovery system.

Money will have to be spent on these undertaking and it want come cheap. The alterative is to do it on the system of low taxes and higher cost to rebuild.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 2:34

Adman, the partisanship in Washington right now is disgusting and I'm speaking of both sides. The jobs bill would have helped get people back to work but the Republicans lock step would not move forward out of spite. Throw those bums out! Another thing I didn't agree with was cutting the payroll taxes. The payroll tax cut wasn't enough to help anyone individually but it was detrimental to Medicare and Social Security. I thought that was not a wise move.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 2:35

Also, cutting taxes on the wealthiest when they have had huge increases in income over the last decade is unfathomable.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 2:39

Loner; Bloomberg will be a hero for letting the marathon go on, or he will be left hanging like the crane on the side of a skyscraper.

I will get back to later on this.

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 2:46

Great analogy...playing chicken with the future of America.

I Googled it, there were 12 members of that failed Super Committee; you can check them out here:

http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/11/news/economy/debt_committee_members/index.htm

Snippet: If the committee process fails to produce a debt reduction plan, as much as $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts would kick in -- evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.

The Dirty Dozen....sent out to deal with the ticking time-bomb.....they took a look, but decided that the automatic austerity that will be triggered next year. is preferable to taking the heat for telling the truth and trying to deal with it rationally....the Super Committee and Congress in general is in a state of denial....as they say around here, they are a bunch of chicken shits...and now they are playing chicken with America's future.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 2:50

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21565623-america-could-do-better-barack-obama-sadly-mitt-romney-does-not-fit-bill-which-one

I think this is a pretty fair article. It points out the flaws of both candidates accurately and concludes that even though neither candidate is stellar, we're better off with Obama.

By: MusicCity615 on 11/2/12 at 2:54

Captain Nemo-

the red line underneath words you type like "greatful" means they are spelled incorrectly. "Greatful" is spelled G R A T E F U L

millions go to teachers union taxpayer retirement funds yet they don't teach our citizens how to spell correctly.

By: brrrrk on 11/2/12 at 2:55

And Adman... on a personal note regarding health care.

I had a niece pass away about a month ago from cancer.... primarily because she worked a crappy full time retail job that didn't provide adequate health insurance. Should knew she wasn't feeling well, but put it off because she simply couldn't afford going to the doctor......

By: MusicCity615 on 11/2/12 at 2:56

Burch it's the hate in your heart that leads you to neglect writing about the Fact that Romney did a charity food drive for the victims of the northeast.

I'm sure you will write an article that he poisoned the food he sent across, because he's... hitler?

You have zero credibility. Zero.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 3:04

MusicCity, he did that as a photo op. The charities said what they needed was cash and not to send canned goods. People who did show up to donate were told they couldn't drop off the goods until Romney and the cameras showed up. His team also went to Walmart and bought $5000 worth of goods and were handing it to people to give to Romney for photo purposes.

By: bfra on 11/2/12 at 3:06

MC - Do you not read or keep up on any news? Romney did a photo-op with his food drive, at one point making donors wait for him to get there so the cameras wouldn't miss any pictures. All the while, politicing - FULL steam ahead.

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 3:07

MC615, the word is out about Mitt's "Relief Rally"...it was a shabby photo-op...Mitt bought the food then staffers handed it out to the "donors", who then donated it to smiling Mitt. Mitt exploited the tragedy, that's his MO.

The Red Cross asks people not to donate canned goods etc., they want people to donate cash and blood...but Mitt ignored their advice...he is a showman at heart and he wanted to do the show his way, not the right way.

No, Bishop Romney is not Hitler, to me he is more like Tricky Dick....a dangerous scamster.

By: bfra on 11/2/12 at 3:08

Blanket - Not sure you would see that, MC is a trip & locally a Karl suck up.

By: brrrrk on 11/2/12 at 3:11

Romney was so concerned about the impending Sandy that he called all the governors in it's path..... well except for the Democratic ones.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/romney-reaches-out-to-republican-governors

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:11

Thank you for show me, my yogi, MC615. If I was one of the trolls I would give you and song and dance as to why my computer messed up. LOL

However I wish you would reply to the message contents as well as to the misspelled word.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:17

Again MC615 brings up the word hate and like all the way all fringe Neocons think; if they don’t agree with me then they hate me.

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 3:20

4:20 here.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:25

Nap time here.

By: MusicCity615 on 11/2/12 at 3:31

guys you have it all wrong. Romney secretly poisoned the food! because he's evil. purely evil. He also made sure all the food went to the poor and homosexuals because he's so evil.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 3:34

TIL it only takes one troll to derail a conversation about the real issues.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:35

MC you are turning troll on us.

Get wit it.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:39

Sorry my compute hide my "H"

By: yogiman on 11/2/12 at 3:40

We will not have a balanced budget until we quite financing the world. Can anyone explain why we should borrow money to give it to another nation?

I've never heard of a "loan" to another nation that was paid back. It's always been a beneficiary free of charge.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:42

(______)

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:44

I glad to see I am not the only one thing that MC615 is trollish. (sic)

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 3:52

OMG, yogi actually said something I can agree with.

"In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package that gradually will raise Israel’s annual Foreign Military Financing grant from a baseline of nearly $2.55 billion in FY2009 to approximately $3.1 billion for FY2013 through FY2018. For FY2013, the Obama Administration is requesting $3.1 billion in FMF to Israel."

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf

We need to cut our aid to Israel.

By: MusicCity615 on 11/2/12 at 3:54

just isreal bnazi?

By: Captain Nemo on 11/2/12 at 3:57

I am going to call it a day. I'm starting to make to many yogi's.

Have a great weekend people and to all of you trolls.

Glade you stopped by Adman. I hope you stay awhile.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 3:57

Nope. More than Israel but since they are by far the largest recipients, I listed them first. We have been carrying them for decades - time for them to carry themselves. We need to let the Middle East figure out their own problems and quit being Israel's bouncer.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 3:59

I agree with Loner - Holy Wars Suck. We need to be a truly secular nation.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 4:00

Have a good weekend, Nemo!

By: Adman on 11/2/12 at 4:01

Adman, the partisanship in Washington right now is disgusting and I'm speaking of both sides. The jobs bill would have helped get people back to work but the Republicans lock step would not move forward out of spite. Throw those bums out! Another thing I didn't agree with was cutting the payroll taxes. The payroll tax cut wasn't enough to help anyone individually but it was detrimental to Medicare and Social Security. I thought that was not a wise move.

See, I look at it from a different point of view. The gov't can't fix the unemployment problem unless they are going to give everybody a job. Business creates jobs, and what business needs first of all is some certainty about what the future holds in terms of tax policy and regulation. We don't necessarily need more regulation, we need smarter regulation, and we need to enforce the regulation we already have. I'm not sure I understand the value of having politicians tell business how they ought to be run when those same politicians have never done anything but run for office.

Let me give you an example. Bernie Madoff is in jail right? That means he broke the law. We don't need more financial regulation to stop the next Madoff, we need to enforce what is already there. Madoff ran his ponzi scheme for 30 years, during which time he was chairman of the NASD, the #1 regulator of the investment business during that time. There were numerous reports to the SEC implicating Madoff, but nothing was followed up on until the house of cards collapsed. More regulations wouldn't have changed that if nobody was paying attention.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 4:04

I agree that we need to better enforce what we already have. The jobs bill would have helped create more revenue as well as addressing the issue of crumbling infrustructure. That problem needs to be addressed as well.

BTW, the meningitis outbreak could have been prevented so regulation does have its place.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 4:06

The jobs bill would have created jobs for some but more importantly, those who did get jobs through the bill would then put money back into the economy by purchasing goods and services. So I don't expect the government to give everyone a job - that's not the point.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 4:12

Our problems run much deeper than who is elected next week. Congress really needs to be changed over and we need to get rid of Citizens United. Although I don't know if that is even possible at this point.

By: Adman on 11/2/12 at 4:16

Believe me I understand the multiplier effect. One of the problems with that concept though is that it is not as high when it is gov't spending as when it is private sector spending.

Regarding the meningitis outbreak, I don't think I have advocated anywhere on this thread for 0 regulation. But it is not an all or non situation. There is a middle ground somewhere between the govt has to be involved in everything or they can't be involved in anything.

By: Loner on 11/2/12 at 4:17

Israel is the number one recipient of US foreign aid. State-sponsored abortion clinics in Israel are thus made possible by the generosity of the US taxpayer.

Israel is given a pass on the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City policy; they prohibit US taxpayer aid to any abortion-providing government.

Israel has a right to exist, as a Jewish state; but the Jewish fetus in Israel has no right to life? How so, Mister Romney?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/2/12 at 4:18

I agree with your take on regulation. We need to do a better job with what we have then see what is needed. There has been little oversight.

The multiplier effect may not be as high as government spending but it does get the ball rolling. Higher demand for goods and services creates job growth. That doesn't need to be an all or nothing either.