Today, Obama will visit the storm zone of New Jersey, as the fourth day in a row of his staged expressions of concern for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, in attempt to campaign as appearing "presidential." He held daily White House media briefings on Federal storm response Oct. 28-30, a central part of which is the promise of FEMA resources. On Oct. 29, FEMA Director Craig Fugate said at Obama's briefing, "We have plenty of cash in the short term..."
In fact, much of FEMA's money-on-hand is from stiffing localities and states of follow-through for past funding commitments for rebuilding and reimbursement, including even in the Northeast from 2011 Hurricane Irene. Secondly, both Obama and Romney are on record for proposing to cut FEMA funding. And overriding all of this, is the reality that neither of these men back the economic policy actually required to truly rebuild the economy and provide defense against disaster. The scale of destruction in this current superstorm, atop an already-wrecked economy, underscores this policy crisis.
The FEMA funding pretense is simple. Whereas last year in September, at the time Hurricane Irene slammed the Eastern states, FEMA Director Fugate again said, "We have plenty of money" (Sept. 13), this was, as he admitted at the time, only because he put dozens of previous disaster-rebuilding commitments on hold. Since then, those projects are not only still on ice, but a slew of new unmet Hurricane Irene commitments were added to the unpaid FEMA backlog. Then, along came Congress in the election year, and voted up expanded funding for FEMA (for one year), plus allowed FEMA to carry over year-to-year, any unspent funds. So Fugate can claim that he now has a neat $7.1 billion to spend, plus another $700 million he didn't spend last year, for a total of $7.8 billion!
Now look at a typical, local example: Fleischmanns, a very small town in the Catskills (Delaware County, N.Y.), with $4 million of flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and just hit again this week by Sandy. FEMA stalled for months on its part of the $4 million needed for rebuilding, and therefore, the town could not obtain a municipal loan. As of February 2012, an exasperated Deputy Mayor Todd Pascarella wrote to his New York Assemblyman, "We've got all these projects that need to be done. FEMA is taking its sweet time. What's Plan B [for getting funding, and getting started]? No one can tell me what Plan B is. Everybody's very sympathetic, but nobody can tell me how I can start the funding for these projects." The same situation obtains for hundreds of localities in the many disaster zones, the Tornado Belt, the 2011 Missouri Basin flood zone, as well as Hurricane Irene.
To be sure, local FEMA staff are acting heroically, along with thousands of local responders, volunteers and 7,000 National Guardsmen, in the multistate storm zone, where in many places, as in New Jersey, the harrowing rescue phase is still underway. But the Obama program at the top is: lie, cut and kill.
For FY 2013, Obama proposes reducing FEMA's Disaster Relief Funds by $1 billion, down to $6.1 billion. Romney and Ryan are proposing steeper, but unspecified cuts, according to Tuesday's Obama-supporting Washington Post coverage, headlined, "Obama Cuts FEMA Funding by 3 Percent. Romney-Ryan Cuts It by 40 Percent. Or More. Or Less."
In contrast to this immoral tiddly-winks, the thinking and scale of what is required to restore a modern economy, is indicated by the briefing in New York this afternoon by ConEd CEO Kevin Burke. The extent of the damage to the city's power system is the worst in ConEd's history. ConEd outages are 740,000 people, twice as many as from Hurricane Irene. New York's subway system is flooded, for the first time in its 108 years. The electrified "third rail," the switches, and all critical parts are in salt water. Where do the replacement parts and systems come from?