Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A small story gets me thinking about the big picture...

Earlier this evening, I was listening to NPR as I was on the way home from the grocery store. They were, of course, talking about Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Because of the devastation, and the problems that is causing in getting around in parts of New York and New Jersey, a reporter had taken to her bicycle to look around and see how people are coping in areas with a great deal of damage and, in many cases, no power.

She happened on a Chinese restaurant that had figured out how to keep cooking and stay open despite the power being off. Talking to someone who was on their way out of the restaurant with the food they had purchased, the reporter asked how the prices were; were they higher, lower, or the same as they had been before the storm. The response was that they were the same as always.

When I heard that, I burst into tears, right there in front of God and everybody.

That reaction puzzled me at first. It was nice that the restaurant owners weren't trying to price gouge, but it was nothing to cry about. Thinking about it as I made my way home, however, I finally realized why I had started crying.

Mitt Romney has been caught on tape, repeatedly, talking about how it's immoral for the federal government to spend money on things like disaster relief, and how he would defund FEMA, the agency that is charged with helping out in time of natural and man-made disaster. If he is elected president, he has said, he would put disaster response and relief on the states or, ideally, he has said, privatize it. And that's a big problem.

Why is that a problem?, you might be asking right now.

It is a problem because privatized disaster relief on a scale needed in the wake of events like Sandy would necessarily fall into the hands of big companies. And big business is out to make big profits, first and foremost. And so they would charge for their help. Not only would they almost certainly overcharge for their help - unlike that Chinese restaurant in the NPR story - they would almost certainly only help those who could afford the help. And in the process, those big companies would probably put that Chinese restaurant out of business to eliminate the competition, however small. Which fits right into the Romney philosophy of "if your poor, you're on your own". Not to mention one of his main specialties as a businessman, that is, taking apart smaller and underperforming companies and selling off the remains for a profit. But that is another problem, for another blog post.

This is not the way it should be. In a disaster as big as Hurricane Sandy, it is really only the federal government that is big enough to coordinate the recovery efforts and to make sure that recovery does not take years...or decades. And to make sure that the recovery reaches everyone, and does not further enrich the already wealthy on the misfortune of others.

As I commented elsewhere in the past couple of days, I really wonder when people are going to realize that "looking out for number one, and everyone else is on their own" is not a sustainable life plan in the long term. We're all in this together, and that includes the government. If we follow Mitt Romney's philosophy of politics, and probably his philosophy of life, it's going to be every individual for him or herself, and God, or whichever deity you believe in, help us all.

That is why I was crying on the way home from the grocery store this evening. That is not the America I was brought up in, and if it turns into that, any more than it has already become that, heaven help us all.

As a postscript, the Romney campaign released a statement earlier today (Wednesday) saying that if he is elected president, Mitt will support and fully fund FEMA. If he thinks people won't notice that he is changing his story...again...just because he thinks that the position he stated earlier is sure to be unpopular in states where he needs votes, he is, I hope, sadly mistaken.

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