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Alex MacGillis: Mitt Romney Says We Should Not Have Nationwide Federal Disaster Relief at All

Alex MacGillis:

It's The Allure Of Glib Federalism/a>: Why Romney Came Out Against FEMA: Watching one of the many Republican presidential debates, a CNN one in June 2011, I started at one exchange, and was surprised that it did not draw more comment afterward. CNN's John King asked Mitt Romney whether, in the aftermath of the recent Joplin, Mo. disaster and a budget crunch at FEMA, the agency should be shut down, leaving disaster relief to the states.

"Absolutely," Romney 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. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?

King followed up: "Including disaster relief, though?"

[Romney replied:]

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.

Well, with Sandy now lashing the Eastern Seaboard, that exchange is getting some belated attention. Did Romney really suggest shuttering FEMA and leaving disaster relief to the states, or even the private sector?… [W]hat are we to make of Romney's debate answer, not so very long ago at all?… [H]is embrace of glib federalism, specifically as a solution to his great Obamacare conundrum….

[Romney] surely knows why we have a national FEMA, and why leaving disaster relief to the states would mean a patchwork quilt that might be fine for wealthy, well-governed states such as Massachusetts but deeply inadequate in poor, disaster-prone states such as Louisiana or Mississippi (not to mention that all states are fundamentally ill-suited for disaster relief because they, unlike the feds, must balance their budgets every year and so cannot borrow big-time to pay for a disastrous patch.) But to make himself fit for the Republican Party in 2012, Romney figured he'd cast his Massachusetts moderation in the guise of federalism. And, let's face it, it's brought him very far.