The Election According to Hurricane Sandyby Jim Brennan • 11.05.2012
Billions of dollars have funneled from Super PACs into endless hours of political advertisements since the beginning of the Presidential campaign, yet Mother Nature delivered to the most telling of all messages about the philosophy of each candidate. The response to Hurricane Sandy clearly demonstrates each candidate’s position on the role of the federal government in our lives. Voters who want a glimpse of what to expect the next four years—help from their government or a private industry response—need only follow what has unfolded on the East Coast this week.
Governor Christie, the man who would be running for President had he chosen to do so, was in North Wildwood on Saturday with the mayor at his side urging residents to evacuate. By the middle of the week, the governor and the President toured the disaster area along New Jersey’s barrier islands. The President was at the scene as the disaster unfolded and when the tour wrapped up Christie put politics aside and praised the President for his commitment and caring for the people of his state affected by the hurricane. The President and Christie demonstrated the type leadership that is lacking in Washington.
Conversely, the Romney camp was quick to criticize the President for declaring a state of emergency too early. Not that the Republicans would revert to the New Orleans method of disaster response, but comments by the FEMA chairman during the Bush were eerily aligned with the Romney position. Michael Brown said on Sunday, “the president should have let the governors and mayors deal with the storm until it got closer.” The Romney mantra is, “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.”
Romney urged those with the resources to send money to the Red Cross. Well, of course, because he and his numbers guy, Paul Ryan propose to fix the economy by cutting the vital services middle and low-income citizens need to survive, including disaster relief. Romney appeared to bite his lip in his appeal for donations not to include sending money to AIG or Nationwide or any insurance company for that matter. That is Romney’s philosophy and his answer to the country’s economic woes. Privatize it!
Think back to the utter contempt that Romney had in his voice and the way his face contorted any time he mentioned the federal government during the Presidential debates. Imagine being on a rooftop in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, the water rising by the minute, waiting for a helicopter to rescue you while insurance companies haggle whether it is covered by a clause on your policy or wait for the cheapest quote from a contractor.
There is no doubt that private industry can do anything. I grew up in a shipyard crawling through tanks and getting burnt welding boiler pipe before I became an industry analyst and walked manufacturing plant floors meeting with operations managers and CEOs. The US manufacturing base possesses remarkable capabilities.
But to think there is no greed in private industry where profits reign almighty or that waste doesn’t exist in corporate America is delusional. There are bureaucracies in big business the same way there are in government, not to mention the risk that companies, driven by the bottom line, won’t over-bill and under-perform. Such companies are the exception, but so are lazy government workers. To think cutting government from every facet of our lives and leaving it to private industry is the answer to fixing our economy is naive. If you trust the financial and insurance industry with your lives you must have gone into a coma in 2007 and never regained consciousness.
It’s ironic that Governor Christie was the sweetheart of the Republican party and their choice for the Republican candidate, yet he likely would have been scratched from speaking at the Republican National Convention had the Romney camp foresaw he would share a helicopter ride and praise the President for helping the people of his state.
The choice in this coming election is more than about the economy, it is about the role the federal government plays in our lives. The candidate whose interest is in all the people of our country already resides on Pennsylvania Avenue.