Storms happen. And then we’re all Romney’s 47%.

Throughout the presidential campaign, President Obama and Governor Romney have said the election is a choice between two visions of our national government.

And Hurricane Sandy clarifies the choice.

Back during the presidential nominating contest, Gov. Romney was clear that it would be better if the federal government provided less disaster relief. He said that this should be the purview of the states or the private sector.

Just on the practical level there are problems here.

State governments, in states experiencing disasters, may not be able to handle what comes along. And why would one pass this responsibility over to the private sector?

Given the federal government’s greater resources in expertise, equipment and funds (such as the specialized National Unwatering SWAT Team) and ability to work with multiple states simultaneously, the Romney plan would make it harder to mount an effective response to disasters over a large area.

But there are also value choices.

Our country decided in 1787 that we were not just a collection of individual states in what the Articles of Confederation called “a firm league of friendship.” The founders strengthened the national government, while retaining state governments as well.

Our nation has a market economy but, when it comes to public safety, one should not privatize what has always been seen as a public obligation on behalf of citizens’ common good.

The 47%

Romney famously decried nearly half of Americans, saying that 47% were dependent on government and didn’t take responsibility for their lives. But nearly all in the 47% did in fact work (or had worked and then retired).

As political scientists Suzanne Mettler and John Sides point out, “nearly all Americans — 96 percent — have relied on the federal government to assist them. Young adults, who are not yet eligible for many policies, account for most of the remaining 4 percent.”

Getting through particular rough times in life, nearly everyone needs help sometime. That’s true whether it’s a hurricane that’s hit or a wage-earner contracts MS.

Storms happen.

Just as the hurricane was hitting the biggest city in the country and other highly populated areas on the east coast, Romney’s campaign backed off on his disaster relief comments a bit, just as he backed off from his 47% comment.

But his original comments on disaster relief and the 47% are consistent with the Romney-Ryan budget and are terribly clarifying.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.