What follows should not be necessary. If our mainstream media were able to report, rather than just re-publish what others have said no matter how ridiculous, no matter how untrue, then political campaigns would not have to take on this burden.
Or, if Walter Cronkite were still with us, and reporting the news. Sadly, he is not.
Yes, it is close to the election. And, yes, it is unseemly to 'exploit' a natural or personal disaster for political purposes. Worse than unseemly... downright tasteless, crass and crude.
Even in hotly contested elections, I would never consider it and, when others do it, I recoil.
But, there is a critical distinction in this election.
The Republican Party (incredibly) would either eliminate FEMA or reduce it dramatically. The 2010 Tea Party Congress cut funding for natural disaster monitoring to reduce the deficit without having to raise taxes on the wealthy because who cares about little things like earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and hurricanes, right? They wanted to reduce FEMA's funding.
Do not even entertain the "we do not have the money" argument. That is only true if any increase in tax revenues, any elimination of subsidies for oil companies, any recalibration of the estate tax... everything is off the table.
If the Republicans had had their way, this disaster would have been much worse -- in case you forget, perhaps, more like Katrina when Bush put a former Arabian Horse Show organizer was in charge of FEMA. [In a statement that could only be cruel satire, Brownie himself said that the president "moved too fast" to get preparations in place! That endorsement alone should win the election for the president.]
Mitt Romney would send it back to the states -- and, one supposes, tell these gosh-darn natural disasters not to cross state lines.
Or, he would privatize it... just imagine, FEMA, Inc.! Think of how safe and warm one would feel knowing that a profit-maximizer was calculating the cost of rescuing someone from his rooftop versus the CEO's next yacht payment, or the earnings per share in their next quarterly report. Corporations are people are they not? Just warms the cockles of one's heart.
It may feel very good for (some) souls to rail against "big government" as if it were the absolute monarchy of King George III and not a representative democracy where we do things together for the common good. It feels good to cast off one's burdens onto something distant and amorphous, the louder and the angrier the better.
Truth? Who cares?
Everyone, when reality actually bites.
It does not feel so good when your roof is blown off, or your home is flooded, or your power is gone, or you take your dusky-looking 4-year-old to an Emergency Room to save her life from an asthma attack because you could not afford her medications to prevent it.
And, here's the problem: If we do not invest in advance -- in FEMA preparations and training, in education, in our roads and bridges, in providing security for people in their old age so they know they have a least a little bit of a pension (Social Security) and guaranteed health care, in research and development to feed future economic growth, in maintaining our air, ground and water quality, in ensuring the safety of the food we eat, the gadgets we use, the medications we take, the planes we fly, and so forth... it will not be there when we need it.
FEMA and FDA and roads and bridges and the FAA and a child's education require more than six days to create and build, at least for us mortals.
And, here's the other problem: Because the media is, as Sarah Palin so aptly described it, so lame, if the Democrats do not talk about it in real time, Romney and the right-wing will remain silent. They will not answer reporters' questions.
And, as the Romneyoids hope, the silence will not penetrate peoples' consciousness.
Of course, their silence should speak a million words -- just as it should, for example, on equal pay for equal work. [Their paymasters just want cheaper labor. So, the 'excuse' they invented that equal pay laws will just feather trial lawyers' nests can be easily handled -- just propose that paying unequally for the same work is a crime with mandatory six-year jail sentences for the CEO, without parole or the right to plea bargain. Then, that excuse is gone -- trial lawyers make no money (prosecutors bring the cases), but women are protected in the workplace. See how they like dem apples!]
But, if Romney's statements, Ryan's budget, and the budget actually passed by the House Tea Party are not exposed and commented upon, the silent treatment will work. How many times, and for how long, can a news broadcast or newspaper say that Romney "ain't sayin'"? And, engage the viewer with a proposed analysis -- even when the skies have fallen, heaven forbid they should do any hard thinking!
The Democrats can handle the awkwardness by making their case not about voting for the president or some particular Senate candidate, but by talking about the grand choice between the parties that Sandy illustrates -- the party whose philosophy from a Russian novelist not only exalts an individual but describes any collective action as corrupting versus the party that believes we need to build a common foundation so that each of us may enjoy maximum opportunities if we care to take it; the party that believes that the person who makes your hotel bed is a "taker" or that party that values the work and contribution of everyone.
Or else, none of this will be there when we all need it.
Allowing that to happen is more base, more crude, more immoral, more unforgivable than exposing the truth about the Republicans, even as we are still going through this natural disaster and beginning the long slog of cleaning it up with the intent that people really understand what they are voting for and against.
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