Thursday, November 01, 2012

Show us some magic, Mr. Romney

Mitt Romney promises another vision for the federal government with a smaller role to be played in disasters like Hurricane Sandy, leaving more responsibility for states and the private sector. On an ideological level, I don't have a problem with that: why should taxpayers from Arizona fund hurricane relief in New Jersey?

Excellent! Currently, Mitt Romney is a private citizen, a wealthy businessman, an ex-governor, a high-profile executive with TV cameras following him around every minute at a time when millions are in need of disaster relief.  What an excellent opportunity for him to show us the magic of the private sector stepping into the breech in real time. 

What is Mitt Romney doing?

We see images of Mr. Romney loading trucks with canned goods and water bottles. We see Mr. Romney smiling, shaking hands with Ohioans at a "non-political" (yeah, right) event...just when millions are battling the elements a couple states away, thousands are in need of immediate relief, transportation, power, food, shelter. 

But the Red Cross doesn't want canned goods or water bottles, they are asking specifically for donations of money and blood products to supplement the logistical efforts of the government authorities. 

From the Red Cross website:

Unfortunately, due to logistical constraints the Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items. Items such as collected food, used clothing and shoes must be sorted, cleaned, repackaged and transported which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel.
The Red Cross does accept bulk quantities of product and services when these items meet our service delivery needs. These donations typically come from manufacturers, suppliers, and/or distributors that can package the items in bulk, palletize them and transport them directly to Red Cross sites. 
Mitt Romney seems to be doing the exact opposite of what is needed.

I'm not a political operative or a disaster relief professional but my guess is that Mitt Romney's day yesterday could not have been more misspent: either as a presidential candidate, as a resourceful executive or as just a concerned private citizen, his day was wasted. 

He's an executive. What the hell was he doing? Loading water bottles!? Why wasn't he on the phone calling his private sector connections and executive buddies to get some shit done?  You know, executive stuff: get some blood drives organized, some corporate donations pledged, some money moving to where it's needed. 

I would have been impressed if I had seen Romney 10 days ago at a desk calling plywood or sandbag suppliers to get some material "palletized"; or having Walmart and Costco pledge truckloads of food for shelters. That should have been the photo op: proactive administration. I know he didn't do that, because if he had done that I'd have those images scorched into my LCD TV screen by now. 
In his defense, Mitt did make an undisclosed personal donation of money to the Red Cross. As a private citizen, he can continue to do this...and maybe even more easily if he continues to be a private citizen.
Sure, Obama is going to be all presidential, cavorting with the governors, "assessing damage", cheer-leading the FEMA folks...that's the nanny state model that the Romneys of the world so loathe.   "[Mr Obama]  has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit,"  Gov. Christie (R-NJ) said.  

But Big Government™ is so damn useless, so let's see how the other model would work.

There are two competing views of the role of the federal government. In the extreme, the left will argue for an overriding nanny state with cradle to grave benefits and a mitigation of every threat with such things as disaster relief. The right sees a world with little government intervention and they claim that disasters like hurricanes should be managed by states accompanied by largess from the private sector.

Romney's model has merit. He wants to be a technocratic executive who "gets things done" by marshaling the forces of the private sector. This week we are in the vortex of a presidential campaign, an incredible natural disaster, and all the concomitant media coverage that goes along with these events, and Romney, the guy who wants to change the way we think about these things, had an opportunity to demonstrate how this would work. 

I'm not convinced. I don't believe in magic.

 "Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items." 

1 comment:

Eric said...

$5000 in campaign money, not his money.
I keep wondering why florida doesn't pay higher federal taxes... or why they don't do something for FEMA.