Meanwhile, a minor debate broke out in the blogosphere over what was seen as Mr. Romney’s pledge – during a GOP primary debate – to close the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” Romney said last June, in a quote highlighted by the Huffington Post.
Spokespersons for Romney quickly sought to quell the controversy, insisting that he had been misinterpreted. Yes, they said, Gov. Romney still thinks states should take the lead in addressing disasters. But no, he wouldn’t shutter FEMA.
And that raises the more interesting question: Why not? Even as Romney and the GOP condemn government spending, why does federal emergency relief remain a sacred cow for conservatives and liberals alike?
When Herbert Hoover made his famous trip to flood-ravaged Mississippi in 1927, as secretary of Commerce, he called on state governments and charities – not Uncle Sam – to provide emergency assistance. Even after he ascended to the White House, facing the worst economic crisis in US history, Hoover continued to reject federal relief to struggling localities and individuals. The stopgap measures he implemented late in his term were considered by many – especially voters – to be too little, too late.