Who knows what he’s saying now, but last year, Mitt Romney said it was “immoral” for the government to borrow and spend money to pay for disaster relief.Importantly, he wasn’t just talking about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which some conservatives say is a horrible waste of money. He was talking about “disaster relief.”
Here’s the quote and context, which comes from Grace Wyler’s article on this topic:
In 2011, during the heat of the Republican primary, the GOP candidate said during a debate that he would support cuts to federal disaster relief as part of an overall plan to reduce the deficit.
“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,” Romney told debate moderator John King. “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?”
When John King interrupted to clarify, “Including disaster relief?” Romney continued, “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.” (h/t Slate)
Yes, Romney’s “immoral” comment was clearly referring to the debt we’re piling up. But he was equally clear that borrowing to fund disaster relief is something that should be cut.
Now, maybe you think that what what Romney meant was, “Oh, of course I would keep federal disaster relief—I would just cut something else out of the budget to pay for it.”
But if he meant that, why didn’t he say that?
Again, that was last year, when Romney was speaking to a crowd that wanted to hear him say that he would cut disaster relief. Today, after a major disaster, Romney would probably correctly assume that a crowd would want him to say that he wants to keep disaster relief—and, therefore, he would probably say that he wanted to keep it. And, yes, just because Romney says something obviously doesn’t mean he believes it.
But let’s at least agree on what Romney said last year. Romney wanted to cut “disaster relief.” Not FEMA. Not other government spending to pay for disaster relief. Just disaster relief.
(And, by the way, for those who think what Romney meant was that he wants states and local governments to handle disaster relief, Hurricane Sandy is a perfect example of why this approach is ludicrous and inefficient when dealing with disasters that cross state and local lines. Can you imagine if all the governors of all the states affected by Sandy had to agree with each other and coordinate before they did anything to help each other? The federal government has a place in our society. And disaster relief is part of that place.)
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