Hurricane Sandy rolled through the East Coast this week causing mass flooding, leaving millions without power and, lest we forget, ruining Halloween for countless children. Mother nature has insane timing and the ability to divert our national attention from the last week of a Presidential election to more pressing matters. That is not to say politics are not at play in this storm.
To the contrary, the damage done by Sandy raises a critical debate that has been at the center of this election year, that being the role of government in our lives. The GOP has been pounding the anti-big government drum since Reagan. Democrats have been painted as socialists who want to turn the U.S.A. into the U.S.S.R. The irony is that there is a little truth on both sides of the aisle.
There are Democrats who hold strong socialistic views and support government involvement in all facets of business, but in comparison to the anti-government wing of the GOP, our numbers are small. The vast majority of Democrats are red-blooded capitalistic entrepreneurs and business owners. However, unlike the modern GOP, we believe government has a role to play. From Romney’s “You Built That” ads to the rhetoric on Fox News, “small government” is the conservative rallying cry.
But let’s look at this concept now in a real-world situation. In a recent etch-a-sketch moment, Romney did an about-face on comments he made just 6 months ago during a primary debate regarding FEMA. When asked about the role of this government agency made famous by its mishaps in handling Hurricane Katrina under Bush, he said, “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.”
The stupidity of that statement is only unclear to the most isolated Wall Street executive or the wilderness survivalist hunkered down in a bunker somewhere in rural Montana. Sandy is the perfect example of why we need a strong Federal Emergency Management Agency in place. What people seem to forget is that at one time many modern day government services were in private hands. From police to fire departments, part of our progression as a society has been to make these roles a function of government, because when left to the private sector, it just doesn’t work.
When fire departments were privatized, people had to have fire insurance. One house would burn while another next to it was extinguished. A wise Democrat said, “Republicans always complain about ineffective government, then they get into office and show you what they mean.” From Katrina to the Iraq war, we had eight years of proof that the GOP doesn’t know how to handle domestic and international crises. If their argument is that the private sector can do it better, it is only because they have proven themselves to be incapable of doing it right.
Perhaps the best last-minute reminder that we should re-elect Obama on Election Day has been his work with Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has been praising the president’s help throughout the aftermath of Sandy (much to the annoyance of team Romney). Christie is a moderate and is proving that we can work together for the best interests of the people. He’s also showing his party that there is a role for the federal government to play in times like these.
Now let’s get the power back on on the East Coast so we can all make sure to harass each other and vote on Tuesday.
By Jose Cruz, guest contributor
Jose Cruz is the editor of OurTiempo.com worked in the Clinton White House and on three presidential campaigns. He is the founder of ImmigrationPAC, a pro-comprehensive immigration reform political action committee, and an active political commentator.