If you ask Paul Krugman, the Republican Party's obsession with shutting down the agency tasked with responding to natural disasters borders on the insane.
"There's something pathological" about "the weird Republican obsession with killing FEMA," or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the New York Times columnist wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "It’s really hard to think of a public service less likely to be suitable for privatization."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said at a GOP primary debate last June that he would "absolutely" shut down FEMA and transfer its responsibilities to the states. "If you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better," Romney added.
The remarks have received renewed focus after Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast earlier this week, killing more than 50 people and leaving more than 8 million people without power. Romney refused to answer reporters' FEMA-related questions following a Tuesday campaign event where he encouraged supporters to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. On Wednesday, Romney said in a campaign statement that he "will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission" if elected president.
Hurricane Sandy is estimated to have caused $30 billion to $50 billion in economic damages, according to IHS Global Insight. In response to the storm, FEMA has been helping coordinate power restoration and distributing water, food, blankets, and cots.
Romney's FEMA plan may not be all that surprising, given that the Republican candidate has also proposed giving the private market greater control over services like health care. Romney and running-mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have proposed a voucher system for Medicare and a block-grant Medicaid program for states. Their Medicare plan would cost current 29-year-olds about $331,200 more on average over the course of retirement than the current Medicare system, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress.