What natural disasters like Sandy teach us about taxes and government

Left out in the wake of the election and material, Linda’s post is still relevant as we continue to clean up, repair and replace damage done by Hurricane Sandy and the Nor-easter.. I would like to see more information on plans for future ‘unique’ storms and ways to handle some of the unique problems encountered by rescue teams, firemen, and aid workers.

Bloomberg, the Financial Times, the New York Times and other editorials wanted ‘to join the band climbing back on the wagon’ so to speak along with some politicians.

by Linda Beale

What natural disasters like Sandy teach us about taxes and government, and why NY City Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama

Bloomberg announced today (a week ago) that President Obama would be the best candidate to lead the nation over the next four years.  See Bloomberg Endorses Obama, Citing Climate Change, New York Times (Nov. 1, 2012).  Bloomberg made the decision in part because of Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the east coast, costing many lives and much financial distress.  Obama’s leadership and willingness to commit federal agencies to aid municipalities and people recover from the devastation was a marked contrast to the Bush Administration’s handling of Katrina and the utter disregard shown by Bush’s FEMA executives for prudent planning and quick response.

There is a clear consensus among reputable scientists that global warming is underway and that superstorms like Sandy are one of the likely results.  In that context, a vibrant and efficient emergency response organization is terribly important.  Obama has shown that he recognizes this, in the way that he has handled the preparations for, and implementation of plans after, Hurricane Sandy.

Romney has amply demonstrated that he does not recognize the importance of government action to deal with natural disasters and similar emergencies.  Instead, he has suggested that “private organizations” should replace FEMA and that many other similar federal agencies should be squeezed down or even squeezed out.  Even in the lead-up to Sandy’s east coast strike, Romney was assisting with a gathering of canned goods and praising private charitable responses to emergencies, even though such action is not a very effective way to mobilize emergency aid. Further, as Bloomberg noted in his endorsement of Romney, Romney’s positions on many issues have shifted radically to the right in his attempt to win the election:  “ ‘In the past [Romney] has taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care – but he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the very health care model he signed into law in Massachusetts,’ Bloomberg said.”  Id.

Anyone who knows anything about public infrastructure and natural disaster knows that charitable groups and money-making enterprises cannot possibly substitute for good government action.  That is the reason that so many in Haiti are still living in improvized dwellings and so many in Somalia still suffer from chaotic lives with anarchy rather than government as their norm.

Obama’s course is the right one.  He hasn’t been willing to speak as strongly about issues like the environment and global warming as I would like, because he is at heart a centrist.  But at least he knows that government can and must act in ways that private organizations cannot act, a truth that Romney seems incapable of acknowledging.  That is the reason that taxation needs to be increased rather than merely “starving the beast” to reduce the size of government.  Government is just “we the people” acting to do things that are needed that we cannot do individually or even through a business enterprise.  Government acting in those ways requires taxes to provide the revenues to support the activities.  And those things are not inherent evils, as the radical right today paints them.  Quite the contrary.  Taxation and government activity in support of the public good are vitally important parts of a sustainable democracy
cross posted and lightly edited ataxingmatter