Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney's comments last year that FEMA should be eliminated or, ideally, privatized are gaining renewed attention as the disaster from Hurricane Sandy continues.
In June 2011 answering a question from a CNN correspondent during a Republican debate about whether states should have a bigger role in emergencies, Romney stated: "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."
On Tuesday Romney ignored repeated questions by reporters regarding his position on FEMA. At the event billed as a "storm relief" effort, the Washington Post reports on Romney's repeated ducking of the question:
“Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?” one reporter asked.
Several others again asked Romney whether he would eliminate FEMA.
“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?” one asked.
Romney ignored the reporters’ queries and continued loading up the truck. Earlier, during the event, he ignored similar queries.
NPR reports on anecdote from the presidential hopeful at the Ohio event that continues his emphasis on the private sector:
On Tuesday in Ohio, Mitt Romney sponsored a canned food drive for storm victims and told a parable about the virtue of individual action. When he was in high school, Romney said, a small group of students managed the big task of cleaning up a trash-strewn football field, after each student was given responsibility for scouring one small section.
"And if everybody cleans their lane, why, we'll be able to get the job done," he said. "And so today we're cleaning one lane, if you will. We're able to gather some goods for some people that are in our lane. We're going to help them."
Under a "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan administration, FEMA's ability to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters could be severely inhibited," Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy wrote in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. Romney may be dodging questions about his FEMA plans, but in August post-Isaac and in these days following Hurricane Sandy, the impacts climate change-fueled natural disasters are getting harder to ignore. Murphy adds:
the GOP ticket's likely cuts to disaster management and weather forecasting budgets would come at a time in which, fueled by climate change, natural disasters are becoming increasingly more potent and expensive. There were 14 billion-dollar disasters in the United States in 2011—the most on record. For the GOP in Tampa, Hurricane Isaac isn't just a nuisance; it's the elephant in the room.