Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy: Did you see your Government at work?

Many of us have been glued to our TV sets, computers, and mobile devices as we followed the weather updates and tracked super storm Sandy as it crashed into the East Coast of the United States. We watched updates on The Weather Channel, evening newscasts or on-line sites. We saw updates from the National Weather Service and its National Hurricane Center. We tracked the storm course with satellite feeds from NOAA. We saw FEMA crews dispatched to the devastated areas of several states. But also saw them pre-position resources before the storm?

We watched courageous Coast Guard crews perform amazing at-sea helicopter rescues of crew members from a sinking ship. We saw National Guard troops, first responders - police officers and fire fighters, nurses, and civil servants all at work for the needs of their fellow men and women. The Army Corps of Engineers is being called in to help deal with flooded subway tunnels and other water inundated areas.

Amazingly, in New York City, we also saw an horrendous fire destroy more than 100 homes in a area so flooded that firefighters could not drive in, so they waded in to fight the fire with equipment they carried on their backs. We saw nurses, doctors and other rescuers in a powerless hospital individually carry babies and patients down several flights of stairs along with respirators, IVs and other equipment to waiting ambulances which transported them to other hospitals which had power.

As we watched, we saw our friends and neighbors in need, their homes and lives destroyed in the sudden turmoil of a massive and ferocious hurricane. People who had seen hurricanes before were amazed at the intensity of this storm. Was it due to a freak of colliding weather systems -- the so-called "perfect storm" -- or was this impact the result of severe weather disasters caused by global climate change? New York's Gov. Cuomo mentioned that it was only 15 months since the last aberrant hurricane (Irene) seriously impacted New York and New Jersey. Several commentators have noted that many East Coast shorelines have been permanently reconfigured by this storm. Some towns may not be able to be rebuilt along the coast. Certainly much infrastructure will require rebuilding in many communities.

Disasters should not be politicized and I join with President Obama who visited the DC Red Cross headquarters today and asked for people to send contributions for disaster relief to them. My heart goes out to the families who are suffering from this devastation and to those who are working to restore services. But I hope that you can also agree with me that we have also seen much of what has long been great about America. Many of us do care about each other and step up to help out when trouble comes calling.

But I cannot help but also point out how events such as this demonstrate the necessity of a knowledgeable federal and coordinated interstate response to disasters. It also showcases how the civil servants who have been so much maligned as unnecessary freeloaders feeding at the public trough – step up selflessly and serve their communities. The nurses, first responders, highway and subway workers among others, have a massive job to do in any disaster but they do it, because that is their calling or their duty.

They understand public service. These are generally people who are salaried and often make modest incomes. Many might even fall into the 47% mentioned by Mitt Romney as "victims" who do not contribute to national tax base. Regardless, they are out there working for us because that is what they do. It also belies the claim of Republicans that the private sector can step up and fill this need. Mitt Romney has famously said he would block grant FEMA money because states should choose how to spend their money.

His current response has been to collect canned goods and water which is not what is needed as any disaster worker will tell you. They need to use their bulk deliveries of goods and collect monies to meet local needs. Romney has said that the private sector should get funding diverted from FEMA. We should not borrow money to meet this need. Several reporters tried to get this answer clarified from Candidate Romney without success.

I am gratified that we have the vast resources of the Federal Government to draw on when disaster hits. I see Government as a positive force in our lives. What do you think? Let me know with a comment.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Republicans voting for Romney are fully aware of what is going to happen when blue and red states are expected to look after their own and no taxes will be collected to look out for each other?

    They don't seem to ask themselves why we tolerate our stratospheric tax levels or how such "socialist" tendencies seem to produce economies that maintain high employments, centers of culture and standards of living.

    How many times are we going to be asked to cut the rope with which they beg to hang themselves?


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