Huffpost Politics

Mitt Romney's Argument For Shutting Down FEMA Ripped In New York Times Editorial

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A New York Times editorial published online on Monday night ripped the argument Mitt Romney made for shutting down the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last year at a debate during the GOP presidential primary season.

The NYT editorial board said of Romney's remarks:

Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.

As superstorm Sandy threatened the East Coast on Sunday night, HuffPost's Ryan Grim reported on the comments in question from the debate.

Asked at the 2011 event if FEMA should be shut down so that states could take the lead on disaster response, the former Massachusetts governor said, "Absolutely." He continued, "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?"

Pressed on the issue of disaster relief specifically, Romney said he believes it's "immoral" for the federal government to take action if it means "[racking] up larger and larger debts."

The NYT editorial board criticized the case made by the Republican presidential contender in no uncertain terms:

It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen.

The Romney campaign sought to do damage control after the presidential candidate's remarks on FEMA resurfaced on Sunday night. An official said, "Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters."

HuffPost's Jason Cherkis reports:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney argues that federal disaster response should be handled at the state level, but when disaster struck Massachusetts, he was missing in action, according to some of the state's local politicians.

On Oct. 9, 2005, heavy rain storms caused the Green River to rise to historic levels and begin flooding into Greenfield, Mass. The flooding destroyed a trailer park and demolished swaths of low-income housing. Roads were impassable. The flood waters submerged the town's water treatment plant.

As the rain fell and the Green River rose, Greenfield's then-Mayor Christine Forgey tells The Huffington Post that she did not hear from Romney. About 75 people, including many retirees, lost their homes in the trailer park, she says. Still many more were displaced. Forgey says a resident opened up the high school and used it as a crisis shelter. A radio station launched a food and clothing drive and the Red Cross provided services.

Click here for live blog updates on the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

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