Would Mitt Romney Handle Hurricane Sandy Any Differently Than Obama? You Betcha!
If you live anywhere on the East Coast right now, the big news suddenly isn't the big election coming up a week from tomorrow. It's the big monster hurricane, Sandy, bearing down on the U.S.. It could wind up being the biggest storm to ever hit the American mainland and the "target zone" includes 5 of the country's biggest cities, Boston, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia
"The size of this alone, affecting a heavily populated area, is going to be history making," said Jeff Masters, a hurricane specialist who writes a blog posted on the Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com).President Obama canceled campaign appearances today in Colorado Springs and in Prince William County, Virginia so that he could be at the White House to monitor the need for government help for Americans impacted by the storm. Would a President Romney do the same? One would think so. And, he also canceled his own campaign appearances in Virginia today-- but only so that he could run off and campaign in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. And looking back over Romney's pronouncements over natural disasters, there's an "uh oh" voters better look at. From a report by Brad Johnson for Think Progress in June of 2011 when Romney was in the midst of the Republican primary and trying to be as severely conservative as he could: "Asked about federal disaster relief for recent tornado and flood victims at last night’s GOP debate, candidate Mitt Romney called the spending 'immoral' and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be privatized." Watch the video above.
Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 12 inches of rain in some areas, as well as heavy snowfall inland.
Government officials in several states in Sandy's path faced tough decisions on emergency plans, including mandatory evacuations in vulnerable coastal areas, and residents scrambled to buy supplies before the storm comes ashore on Monday night.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered the state's casinos to close by 4 p.m. and began preparations in case the state had to shut down its bus and rail systems.
On its current projected track, Sandy is most likely to make landfall between in the New York/New Jersey area and head inland to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, forecasters said.
Embracing a radical anti-government ideology from the most extreme elements of the Tea Party, Romney said that the victims in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and other communities hit by tornadoes and flooding should not receive governmental assistance. He argued it is “simply immoral” for there to be deficit spending that could harm future generations:Have you read Stephen Goldstein's prescient new book, Atlas Drugged" Ayn Rand Be Damned? It's set in a time in the future in which Romney's far right has already taken over America and transformed it into the kind of dystopian society he and Ryan and other GOP sociopaths are always describing. One chapter is about a pair of monster hurricanes that hits Florida and how the Mitt Romneys of the day responded:
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. [...] 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, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.From its founding, the federal government has served the Constitutional goals of domestic tranquility and general welfare of the American people by aiding the victims of climate disasters. Romney’s extremist stance in favor of corporate “disaster vultures” would leave the United States in ruin, with only rich and well-connected people like the Romneys assured of getting food, water, shelter, and protection when disaster strikes.
If Romney actually cared about the welfare of future generations, he would take action to arrest global warming pollution instead of supporting the oil company agenda, and would cut subsidies for billionaires instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 5: THE FLORIDA PENINSULA. Tuesday, August 2, the sky was a brilliant, clear blue until 4 p.m. when an unbroken cover of steel-gray clouds suddenly created a canopy over Key West, Florida, obliterating what had promised to be a typical, made-for-tourists sunset. With the clouds came the unique mugginess locals knew was the harbinger of an impending storm, confirming the rumors that had been swirling for the past two days. Fishermen returning from the day’s catch had been telling stories of a monster-- presumably a hurricane-- already moving through the Caribbean.The Republican Party has a plan for America. You just read it. Want more? Here's the rest of what Stephen Goldstein had to say about the Randian/GOP response to the tragedy in Florida and how the "job creators" turned lemons into lemonade-- for themselves.
There was no way to know the intensity or extent of the storm for sure, however. After three failed attempts within the past five years by agents of the Corporate States of America to overthrow the Cuban government and clear the way for businesses to privatize the country’s assets, all communication between Washington and Havana came to an abrupt end, including tropical storm tracking that was routinely shared on humanitarian grounds, even when the countries were bitterest enemies.
In addition, ten years ago, the National Hurricane Center in Miami was privatized, its assets sold to CallUS.com, a company that specialized in creating Internet-based businesses, specifically call centers. In short order, the most experienced meteorologists were fired to save money and increase profits. The site posted almost no original weather analysis, but typically repackaged data and information from other sites. Free weather reports disappeared. Only people who could afford to pay could get updates and were prohibited from sharing them or making them public. In the biggest blow to what had once been a model agency, “Hurricane Hunters,” the Air Force Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, which flew directly into the eye of storms and provided lifesaving information, was discontinued because it wasn’t considered profitable enough. Finally, just last year, CallUS.com declared bankruptcy. While its assets are tied up in court, nothing can be done to replace it, leaving hurricane-prone regions of the CSA defenseless.
So, Wednesday morning, August 3, when residents and visitors in Key West woke up to a pitch black sky, they had no idea what they were in for. Fearless conchs, as residents affectionately call themselves, typically take storms in their stride. They stand pat and snicker at people who run scared. Nothing gets them to evacuate. “Just another storm in paradise,” long-time Duval Street resident John Macalister reassured his friends visiting from Syracuse, New York. “We’ll get some heavy rain, probably a good deal of flooding. But it won’t amount to much.” Local TV stations ran banners across their screens, advising people to stay put, but few paid any attention.
By 8:30 a.m., fifteen-foot waves were crashing across the island’s wharf. Within half an hour, all streets were under at least six feet of water. Key West looked like a game of pick-up sticks. Buildings that had withstood years of storms were swept away, reduced to rubble. Victims sat perched in trees or hanging on to branches. Everywhere, people-- the lucky ones-- clung to anything that could float. But heavy rain pelted them, and, with heads bobbing, they struggled to stay alive in water churned by merciless winds. Many had already lost consciousness and drowned. Dead, bloated bodies and the carcasses of hapless pets already outnumbered the living. All power to the island gone. All communication severed.
As the storm made its way north, local, on-the-ground reports pieced together an unimaginable story: the Florida peninsula was either being hit by two storms at once-- one on the east coast, the other on the west-- or by one storm that split in two. No one could say for sure. But either way, the net effect was the same. On the east coast, the eighteen-mile stretch of bridges connecting the Florida Keys and the mainland was completely destroyed, so there was no way to escape-- and no way to bring victims relief, except by helicopter. Using boats was not possible because most docks had been swept away. The trendy art deco district of South Beach on Miami Beach and highrise buildings along Biscayne Bay were leveled. A tornado destroyed the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle Causeways.
The story was the same as the storm relentlessly made its way up the east and west coasts of the peninsula; city after city leveled. In Fort Lauderdale and surrounding cities, all the bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway had been blown away. Residents of the flooded barrier island have no water or power or any way to reach land or be reached. Palm Beach, the playground of the rich, is no more-- its palatial oceanfront mansions now piles of rubble; its residents, homeless. Causeways from the mainland were blown away, so there is no way to help thousands stranded on the island.
Fort Pierce, Cape Canaveral, Titusville, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, Jacksonville-- city after city has been flattened. On the west coast, Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater have been leveled. Two-thirds of the Florida peninsula are cut off from the mainland. I-95 from the Keys to Jacksonville is impassable. I-75 from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa and the I-4 corridor from Tampa to Daytona were swept away and are no more. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay has collapsed.
After two of the most destructive days in U.S. history, about twelve million people in Florida are estimated to be homeless and/or living without water or power. About twenty years ago, claiming that existing building codes, written specifically to ensure that structures could withstand hurricane-force winds, cut into their profits, developers successfully lobbied the state legislature to eliminate them.
Frequent gas leak explosions and fires raging out of control are creating panic. Scores of victims who have ignored warnings to stay out of the water because of downed, live power lines have been electrocuted. Vehicles are strewn everywhere, often piled on top of each other. It’s being called “the rich man’s hurricane” because almost all of the damage has been done to the most expensive private property. Reconnaissance planes and helicopters surveying the damage are recording video of unimaginable devastation and human desperation. Refrigerators and stoves are strewn everywhere. Clothing is scattered, caught in trees, blowing like flags in the wind.
Children’s dolls and toys are piled in heaps on land. Some are floating in stagnant pools, clutched tightly in the arms of dead boys and girls. “Help!” has been painted on the rooftops that survived intact and on sheets-- and spelled out in scattered debris to draw the attention of aircraft. At the sight of planes possibly bringing help, victims wave furiously, drop to their knees and clasp their hands as though praying, but collapse in despair when they disappear.
The truth is: No help is coming from the government. No help can come. There are no public relief agencies at any level-- local, state, or federal-- to provide assistance because of a disaster, any disaster. A cardinal principle of Free-for-All economics is hands-off government and personal responsibility-- no big brother, every man for himself. The market replaced the government. If you could afford to pay for protection, you were supposed to arrange to get it on your own. If you couldn’t afford it, you were out of luck. The Corporate States of America abolished all national search, rescue, and aid agencies.
And state and federal governments followed suit and disbanded theirs. What survived was a patchwork of for-profit businesses that provide fire, fire rescue, flood, general disaster aid, and related services, to which individuals annually subscribe for a fee. The problem is that most of those corporations have been devastated from the storm and, even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t have anywhere near the resources they’d need to function after a widespread disaster.
This morning, Friday, August 5, a few helicopters and small boats of private companies from outside of Florida are beginning to land and offer assistance to anyone who can pay. They have limited supplies of canned goods and water. But most people who have money don’t have access to it. So, when about fifty victims in the rubble of what used to be Worth Avenue in Palm Beach were told that “money talks, nobody walks,” they became so incensed, ten of them wrestled the pilot and two crew members of one helicopter to the ground and held them down, while others ran off with the provisions they carried.
Similar scenes are occurring everywhere.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 10 A.M. By video link from Tallahassee, Governor Cris Cott of Florida and, from the Press Room of the White House, President Ham Cooper hold a joint press conference in the aftermath of the recent hurricane.
Malcolm Scott of Floridanews.com: “Governor Cott, four days after the most devastating hurricane in U.S. history has destroyed at least two-thirds of Florida and left an estimated twelve million people homeless, destitute, and cut off from the rest of the country, no help has been forthcoming from the state. Victims are desperate. There are reports of riots and looting in affected areas. What is your plan of action to help them?”
Governor Cott: “Mr. Scott, your question suggests that help in some form should be coming from the state, that whenever and wherever there’s a problem, government is going to come to the rescue. So, I’m delighted to be able to set the record straight: Government has no role to play. Anyone who thinks it does is guilty of a pre-Galtian, socialist, inhibiting, looter mind-set. The overwhelming majority of the country has evolved way beyond it. You and others who think like you are a tiny minority of reactionaries. Storm preparation is a personal matter for families and individuals, which they can address by being responsible and buying appropriate goods and services from for-profit businesses. The same applies to the aftermath of any disaster. It’s the law of the marketplace. The state has no role in it.”
President Cooper: “Well said, Governor Cott. Let me add my unconditional support. The federal government also has no role to play.
After so many years, I’m shocked that anyone in the CSA still believes in socialism. Why should residents of California or New York or anywhere else have to pay to help people in Florida? If you live in a place where there might be bad storms, it’s up to you to protect yourself. That’s a basic principle of Free-for-All economics. It’s what has made the CSA great and what will keep it great. This is no time to question or abandon the core principles that have made us the envy of the world. It’s taken too long for us to get where we are to abandon our beliefs because of one disaster.”
Angela Rothbart of the People’s Voice: “Governor Cott, there are countless reports of people without their medications. Medical personnel on the ground fear the outbreak of infectious diseases. Serious injuries are not being treated. People are dying. Surely, this is a public health crisis of a magnitude that only government can deal with.”
Governor Cott: “Ms. Rothbart, who should be responsible for making sure they have enough of their prescriptions on hand at all times? Can you honestly expect the government to send out reminder notices or, better yet, deliver medications to people’s homes?”
Angela Rothbart: “Governor, thousands of homes were destroyed. High winds and tornadoes scattered everything over miles. Victims may have had all the medications they needed, but they were blown away.”
Governor Cott: “Ms. Rothbart, Ms. Rothbart, private health providers are flying hundreds of medical relief helicopters into affected areas. They will bill insurance companies for services if people have proof of coverage. Anyone without coverage or proof of coverage may pay in cash or with a credit card. So, your statement that this crisis is so big only government can deal with it is totally and completely misguided.”
Melinda Farkas of the Washington Reporter: “Mr. President, surely you are aware that polls show massive disapproval of the way Washington and Tallahassee are responding to the crisis. How do you explain the serious disconnect between your position and public opinion?”
President Cooper: “I think I can answer for Governor Cott and myself. When people are hurting, for whatever reason, even the most enlightened may look to blame others. That’s human nature at its worst-- and weakest-- giving in to emotion instead of accepting full responsibility for people’s personal failure. They refuse to look in the mirror to find the source of their problems. They cannot bring themselves to accept that the uncomfortable position they’re in is proof of their own weakness, foolishness, and basic inadequacy. There’s no mystery in any of this. But I repeat: that doesn’t mean we have to abandon our core principles. When there are emergencies, some people are going to suffer. It can’t be helped. But everyone has a choice between playing the victim card or standing on their own two feet and turning a bad hand into a winning one. The aftermath of the hurricane is the perfect opportunity for Floridians to rise to the occasion and grow stronger.
Jonathan Brown of South Florida Today: “Mr. President, the National Hurricane Center was privatized and eventually the for-profit business that replaced it went bankrupt. People are saying that, if Floridians had had early warning about the extent and force of the hurricane, lives and property could have been saved. In light of the current disaster and failure of the system, do you think the privatization of the Hurricane Center was a mistake and are you considering rebuilding it?”
President Cooper: “The answer to both of your questions is: Absolutely not! I find it truly amazing that, when things get a little tough, there are still people who think that all we should do is return to the days when government coddled its citizens. There was a time when the National Hurricane Center didn’t exist and people got along just fine. Then, we went through years of pouring tax money down a rat hole to keep the place going-- without any return on the dollar. Once we sold the Center off, everyone could see it was simply a losing proposition. The company that bought it was able to make money selling the land, the building, and its equipment. The CSA was saved from continuing to throw good money after bad. The CSA is not in the business of funding losing propositions.”
Governor Cott: “I’d like to add my wholehearted support for President Cooper’s position. The CSA federal government lost hundreds of millions of dollars propping up the money-losing National Hurricane Center that never had a chance of breaking even, let alone returning a profit. And since the Center’s building was located in Miami, the state of Florida lost millions of dollars because it didn’t have to pay taxes. After the for-profit company that took it over went bankrupt, an investment group bought it, and it’s finally generating a healthy bottom line. All the tracking equipment was sold off and the original building was leveled. The new multi-purpose, business and residential facility is ten stories. There are shops on the ground floor, parking on two floors, offices and condos on six floors, and a state-of-the-art fitness center on the top floor, complete with an indoor-outdoor swimming pool. That’s the CSA spirit of entrepreneurship that drives us in Florida. The whole country needs to keep the cash registers ringing.
Geraldine Fredericks of Washington Today: “Gentlemen, what do you say to victims of the disaster who have lost their homes, are literally living exposed to the elements, haven’t eaten in going on four days, and who may have been injured or have health issues?”
Governor Cott: “My answer is simple: Get to work. Roll up your sleeves and start digging out and rebuilding your lives. Pay others to help you if you can afford it. Don’t wait for anyone to come to your rescue because no one’s coming. You live and die in your own skin. If you didn’t know that before, you know it now. Floridians need to learn from this experience to better prepare themselves in the future. No one is going to be there to bail them out.”
President Cooper: “I’ll ditto that, Governor Cott. There is an especially good business opportunity, mostly in the central core of the state, for Floridians who have escaped the most serious loss and damage. But it’s also good advice for people anywhere in the CSA. Ask real entrepreneurs and they’ll tell you that one person’s misery is another person’s profit. That’s just a simple fact. So, people who can hear this message should hop into their trucks. It won’t be long before they wind up in a disaster zone-- and start making money.”
Agnes Richards of TV 7 Miami: “What is the role of government if not to come to the aid of its citizens during crises? Can you really believe that we’re all on our own, totally alone, that there should be no social structure to help people when they are truly victims of forces beyond their control?”
President Cooper: “Ms. Richards, I can’t believe what you’re saying Honestly, I guess living in the White House I have to be reminded from time to time that, as unthinkable as it sounds, there are still people who think as you do. Your questions are filled with all the socialistic buzz words that sent John Galt and his companions on strike in the first place. ‘Aid’? Government should come ‘to the aid of its citizens’? Have you any idea how feeble that thought is? You suggest that responsible adults should simply sit back and wait for someone to make everything better for them, that they have no responsibility to get themselves out of a jam. It’s really unbelievable. You suggest that there should be a ‘social structure to help people when they are victims of forces beyond their control’? Help and victim are words that should be banned from the English language-- at least as it’s spoken in the CSA. If I help you because you’re a ‘victim’ for any reason, I make you into a victim for a second time-- my victim. What a useless existence that would be! How anyone would want that is beyond me.”
George Knight of the South Florida Times: “Governor Cott, this disaster has been called ‘the rich man’s hurricane,’ because it has destroyed some of the most expensive homes in Florida. In many cases, property owners paid premiums for years and thought they were insured against hurricanes. But now they’re discovering that those companies have gone out of business or don’t have reserves to cover claims. What’s their recourse? We’re getting reports that some people are planning to sue the state.”
Governor Cott: “Rich man’s hurricane? You media people make up words like that. Mother Nature doesn’t know the difference between rich and poor. And it doesn’t make any difference to me and the state either. Recourse? Recourse? That word is right up there with “victim” and “help” and “aid” and all the other cop-out vocabulary that people use to get others to sympathize with them and shift the blame onto innocent businessmen, whose only job is to maximize profits. I am proud of the fact that, after years and years of sorting through a maze of laws and regulations, the state of Florida freed the insurance industry to compete in the marketplace without profit-killing restrictions. What used to be called consumer protections were nothing more than wealth-redistributing, socialistic schemes to defraud corporations. Sue the state? Let them try! I don’t care how much money they have or who they are, whatever gripe they have is strictly between them and their insurer. The state has absolutely no responsibility or liability. They should have protected themselves before they signed a contract.”
George Knight: “Governor, a follow-up question, please. Are you saying that the state of Florida has no responsibility to see to it that insurance companies operating within its borders are not committing fraud and are able to cover the policies they issue and live up to the terms of their agreements?”
Governor Cott: “Why of course! I’m saying exactly that. How could it be anything but that? Fraud? What’s fraud? Isn’t it in the eye of the beholder? One person’s fraud is another person’s not paying attention to the terms of an agreement. Buyer beware is standard operating procedure for anyone with half a brain. Read the fine print. And what about consumers defrauding businesses? Would you have the state protecting corporate interests against the illegal acts of individuals? Shouldn’t what’s good for one be good for all? The beauty of Free-for-All economics is that the sacred marketplace takes care of everything. You don’t need a judge and jury with it. Consumers will spread the word about fraudulent insurance companies, others won’t buy policies from them, and they’ll go out of business. It’s a perfect model!”
George Knight: “Governor, a follow-up question, please.”
Governor Cott: “OK, but this is your last one. You’re hogging the stage.”
“In your scenario, the damage is done and people have to be shafted, before the word gets out that companies are being unethical and ruthless. And there’s no guarantee that it will get out quickly and to enough people or that people will believe what they hear-- assuming that the accusations are accurate.”
“Mr. Knight, there are no guarantees in life. Grow up. Accept ultimate freedom. You lead your life alone, on your own. Don’t expect anyone or anything, especially the government, to be there for you.”
Phillip Cohen of Washington Insider: “Governor, five years ago, you signed into Florida law a sweeping bill that replaced state building codes and preempted county and local standards designed to ensure construction that was able to withstand hurricanes. Do you regret doing that-- and do you plan to reinstate former building codes that deal specifically with hurricane conditions?”
Governor Cott: “In a word, no. The codes we eliminated cost developers too much, increased the price of new construction, and reduced jobs. The government has absolutely no role to play in micromanaging construction. If developers want to build to a hurricane-proof standard, the choice should be theirs and theirs alone. If customers want stronger construction, they can pay extra for it. And insurance companies can charge more or less for policies based upon criteria they establish. That’s the beauty of the Free-for-All market.”
Phillip Cohen: “A follow-up, please. President Cooper, with two-thirds of Florida destroyed, what steps do you plan to take from Washington to help businesses recover?”
President Cooper: “Mr. Cohen, you’re obviously asking a leading question because you assume that the CSA should do something in the first place. Well, let me go on record, as I’ve said before: Those businesses will survive and thrive that take care of themselves, without expecting anything from anyone else. If everyone in a given business pitches in and digs out from the debris, they’ll have a bright future. If they don’t, they don’t deserve to continue. Do you think our pioneer forefathers relied upon the government to rescue them as they tramped across the Continental Divide? Of course not! They set out to overcome unknown obstacles with the kind of resolve that made this country great. That’s what we’ve got to keep reinforcing. To keep the CSA strong, we’ve got to keep individuals resolved to look no farther than the end of their nose for the power to succeed.”
Governor Cott: “President Cooper, ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our press conference.”