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Susan Estrich
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One Country


I'm sitting here in the bright sunshine in Pompeii. At any minute, the Earth could shake, and my city would look no better, and possibly worse, than New York. It might happen this week, this year, this decade or long after I'm gone. You just can't know. But this much we do know: If and when it occurs, California will need the help of people from the rest of this country to dig out.

Just as New York and New Jersey do now.

Just as Midwesterners would, and have, in the face of tornados and blizzards and ice storms.

Just as New Orleans did after Katrina and Mississippi did after the Deep Water Horizon spill.

I don't recall any of the governors or mayors in any of those cases saying they didn't want help from the federal government (that is, from those of us who live elsewhere), that they could do it on their own.

That is, of course, what Mitt Romney was saying back in the Republican primary debates.

Asked about FEMA running out of money, and whether this should be an occasion to hand responsibility back to the states, he said: "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."

"Including disaster relief?" CNN's John King asked, just to be sure.

"We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids."

Does he really think helping New York and New Jersey is immoral?

Of course that's not what he's saying now. Now, he's talking about FEMA playing a key role, while ducking questions from reporters who want to pin him down on why he said just the opposite when everyone in the country had electricity.

The answer is obvious. Romney has been running against government.

Asked almost any question — as he was about FEMA — and his answer will be that states and localities can do it better, and the private sector can do it even better.

Sometimes that's true. Often it's not.

No state can afford to handle a once-in-a-lifetime calamity by itself. FEMA always works with states and localities. But it provides resources and expertise that no state can afford to keep on the shelf just in case. New York doesn't have its own Corps of Engineers. New Jersey residents will need federal aid to rebuild. We are, in times of crisis, "one country" — words everyone says. That's what they mean.

And yes, there are some things only government can or will do. I've never heard anyone on a turbulent flight complain that the FAA is too strict about airplane safety. When there's an outbreak of E. coli, you never hear anyone complain that there's too much food inspection at the border, or that the standards for food safety are too high. When a loved one gets sick, you never hear anyone complaining that the government spends too much money on medical research and should leave it to the private sector. The private sector doesn't care very much about rare diseases. You need government for that. And if someone you know contracts one, I promise you won't say, "Leave it to the private sector."

There's an election on Tuesday. It's a choice not only between two different men, but also between two different visions. Visions aren't something that change because of bad weather. Either Romney is just a hopeless political flip-flopper, or he really does believe that leaving things to the states, or better yet to the private sector, is "absolutely" the "right thing to do" whenever you can.

That, in my book, is a vision you can afford to share only if you live somewhere where there are no hurricanes or earthquakes or snow and ice storms or tornados; no turbulent flights; no outbreaks of E. coli; no rare diseases to worry about. And if you do live in such a place, let the rest of us know so we can start packing.

But whatever you believe, don't forget to vote. It's a privilege and a responsibility.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



18 Comments | Post Comment
FEMA is the smallest player in the disaster relief game. The largest players are the insurance companies who provide the bulk of the payments after a disaster. Second, moneywise, are local responders and utility workers, third are not for profits. FEMA does little to nothing, moneywise or organizationally during or after a disaster. FFIP is administered through FEMA, but the adjustment of losses and payments are handled through private insurance carriers, not the government. Federal disaster loans and grants are handled through the SBA and FEMA respectively. The number of grants handed out is minuscule compared to insurance payments.

My personal opinion and that of my neighbors is that FEMA is something we could probably do without and everything would turn out about the same. I say that as an insurance agent and as one who went through Hurricanes Rita and Ike.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jardinero1
Thu Nov 1, 2012 4:47 PM
Thank you. Another FEMA critic. Could not agree more with what you just said. The free market can deal with disasters just fine. We don't need beaurucratic government agencies involved.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Nov 1, 2012 5:37 PM
We are citizens a Republic of 50 States ! Hence the name The United States of America. Got it Estrich?

Of course the disgraced john Edwards always thought we were living in two countries and obama thinks there are 60 states the 57 he had visited while campaigning in 2008 and the 3 that were then remaining to visit.

Jardinero 1 and Chris McCoy are entirely correct. FEMA is a waste of dollars on each and every level.

See its doing just about as good a job in New York as obama has been doing on dealing with Sandy after his 1 day play at president NJ photo op.

Notice also that barry boy was quick to release a ridiculous Situation Room photo for Sandy but has yet to do the same or to answer questions on Benghazi. As Leno put it, re Benghazi so far as obama and the media are concerned its back to don't ask don't tell.

Comment: #3
Posted by: joseph wright
Thu Nov 1, 2012 8:02 PM
Ms. Estricj asked:
Romni once stated "...We cannot we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids."
Does he really think helping New York and New Jersey is immoral?

You seemed to be a bit confused here. This is what the Progressives love to call a "False Choice" or what a critical thinker would call a "False Dichotomy". Maybe there is a third option?

Perhaps Mr. Romney was suggesting that we pay for our essentials rather than endlessly borrow money? Are you seriously suggesting that in the $4000 billion Federal budget something couldn't be cut to provide disaster relief. Maybe Big Bird could take a smaller hand out this year as part of the effort to help the victims of Sandy?

Ms. Estrich also wrote: "There's an election on Tuesday. It's a choice not only between two different men, but also between two different visions. "

I couldn't say it better myself. The above discussion is just one of the differences between those two visions. Budget for and pay your own bills, or wildly borrow based on being compassionate.

Choose wisely on Tuesday! I know who I'm voting for (and voting against).
Comment: #4
Posted by: Old Navy
Fri Nov 2, 2012 3:19 AM
There is only one response that is proper in this situation. That is to help those in Nes Jersey, New York, and All of the other affected states including West Virginia that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We can each do that by sending a donation to the Red Cross and any other legitimate charity, and I stress legitimate charity, so that they can respond immediately. People need help NOW.
All the FEMA bashing in the world will NOT help these people. A check or an on-line donation RIGHT NOW Is the only thing that those of us who were lucky enough not to live in this storm's path is the proper answer.
This type os disaster is exactly what the Founding Fathers envisioned that we should prepare for. Read the Preamble to the Constitution. Those words tell what it is that we have to do.
Many of the people affected by this tragedy will not even have the means to go and vote on Tuesday. They are just working at surviving , finding a place to live and feeding their families. It is time for us to reach a hand down and pull them up beside us. Make your donation NOW.
Comment: #5
Posted by: robert lipka
Fri Nov 2, 2012 4:24 AM
Watching the spectacle of New Yorkers dumpster diving for food, sitting in endless lines for gas, and powerless makes one wonder just where photo op pres for a day barry boy is now. Oh I know ! Whooping it up in Vegas.

When asked obama replied Sandy ? Who is she ? Ben Ghazi who's he? Islamist terrorism ? What's that ? Economy ? What economy ? Jobless ? Who cares, they are not on the rolls? Food stamps? The more the merrier! Poverty ? I built that!

Time to fire obama. 4 more days !!!
Comment: #6
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Nov 2, 2012 4:32 AM
I think Robert has it right. We need to help each other. Thats the arguement I've been making all along. People will always come to each others aid in times of strife. That is exemplified by the fact that people have already donated over 11 million to relief efforts.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Nov 2, 2012 6:33 AM
little boy barack the small minded divider :- Vote for revenge.

Romney :- Vote for love of country.

Need any more be said ?
Comment: #8
Posted by: joseph wright
Sun Nov 4, 2012 10:13 AM
Re: robert lipka
Just a thought - you didn't feel that way when Katrina occured. It was all Bush and Fema's fault. Am I right?
Comment: #9
Posted by: Oldtimer
Mon Nov 5, 2012 5:54 AM
At least this country doesn't bore you with stories about kings and queens.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Liam Astlel
Tue Nov 6, 2012 2:46 AM
Well we shall know today if the American citizenry remains the optimistic, individual, self sufficient, industrious people that made this Republic great or if it has become a plurality of hand out seeking parasitic moochers voting themselves a living off the backs and labors of productive others . We shall know if we are to get back to being a world force for good or continue to be an enabler of the Islamist caliphate. We shall know if the nation is going to embark upon a road to recovery or the road to absolute ruin.

A win for obama is a win for parasitic redistribution, the caliphate, and the road to ruin. It will be the signal for people like me to not just continue the "time out" with regard to investing in America but to pull out entirely.

A win for Romney is a win for everyone. I refuse to believe that the citizens of this great Republic will continue with the mass mental aberation that let the" enemy within" barack into the oval office.

Get him out !!!!

Comment: #11
Posted by: joseph wright
Tue Nov 6, 2012 7:22 AM
Re: joseph wright
Amen!! God save America!!
Comment: #12
Posted by: Oldtimer
Tue Nov 6, 2012 7:28 AM
The press remains blisssfully ignorant about FEMA and state and local EMS responsibilities. So we get more lies.
FEMA has 2,500 employees across the entiure world!!! They do no relief work. The provide supplies. PERIOD!!!
Local EMS provides all the local work. STate and local officials. And the president - all he does is get in the way.
Why hasn't Obama sent in the Army to dig out NJ and Staten ISland like Carter did to Boston in 1978.
Obama is a massive failure. He can join Bloomberg in being the biggest boors in a crisis possible.
Comment: #13
Posted by: saveamerica
Tue Nov 6, 2012 11:07 AM
"It will be the signal for people like me to not just continue the "time out" with regard to investing in America but to pull out entirely. " Joseph what do you mean by this? Are you leaving the country? Where would you go? Canada? There are boarderline socailist. Eurozone? There are total socialist. Mexico? Poor and dirty. What options do we really have?

Comment: #14
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Tue Nov 6, 2012 11:56 AM

Now we do actually know. The populace of this Republic does have a plurality comprised of a confederacy of the profoundly stupid, the mooching hand out seeking parasites, the union thugs and a wholly corupt media.
That confederacy finally destroyed America and all that was moral and decent last night.
I will have no part of it. I have this morning pulled out of America. I shall now just close up my businesses (an eventuality for which I have been preparing for about 18 months) fire my employees and watch the decline of a once great Republic into anarchy, race and class war and debt crisis.
Have fun!
Comment: #15
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Nov 7, 2012 2:45 AM
yeah, yeah, yeah. Now get the fuck out of my country you smack talking prick.
Comment: #16
Posted by: morgan
Wed Nov 7, 2012 2:57 AM
Re: morgan
Spoken like a die hard liberal.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Oldtimer
Wed Nov 7, 2012 4:49 AM
No one but a fool or a Republican ever took me for a liberal.
Comment: #18
Posted by: morgan
Wed Nov 7, 2012 7:28 AM
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