Portelli: In face of natural disasters, conservative individualism ineffective, hypocritical

While the East Coast is still adjusting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many Americans are realizing that, in order to fully recover from a natural or man-made disaster, government interference is necessary. In an article in the Nov. 8 issue of The Lamron, columnist Kevin Frankel summarized the importance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides government relief to areas that have been heavily affected by disasters.

Many Republicans believe that, in times of extreme catastrophe, the American people are capable of getting through conflict with the strength of their own individual spirit. Conservative pundits like former U.S. Rep Rick Lazio and political commentator Margaret Hoover agree with the Ayn Rand Objectivism philosophy.

On an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” the two conservatives agreed that any funding toward FEMA should be privatized and that the ones who are truly making a difference in the aftermath of the storm are the “local and state people.”

They believe that these are the people who have a better direction of where to place funds. They assert that through perserverance and determination alone, an individual can be prosperous without the meddling of the federal government.

But in regards to post-Hurricane Sandy, this attitude proves the exact opposite about the American people. Many in New Jersey or Long Island, N.Y. who do not have power or even a home cannot possibly get by without any aid or help from the government.

According to Newsday, metropolitan areas have been hit the hardest by the storm: “Thousands of New Yorkers remain cold and homeless. Hundreds of thousands are struggling to get work because of gasoline shortages and a damaged public transportation system.”

It is only a natural feeling that, after a major disaster occurs, people want to be comfortable in knowing that their town, state and national governments are supportive and providing aid. Although it is a rare occurrence that tragedies on this scale do strike, it is the government’s responsibility to provide assistance for those involved in catastrophe.

Conservatives are concerned that the money spent by the government toward FEMA and other relief agencies is wasted on an issue that should be reserved for states’ rights. In an election event in 2011, former Gov. Mitt Romney said regarding 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. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

After Hurricane Sandy, he said that if he were president, he “would ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission.” Romney’s shifting arguments are similar to many other Republicans who are apprehensive about spending government aid on such issues because they see it as a useless waste of money that will pile onto America’s debt.

People enduring moments of crisis that are unable to do simple daily tasks like drive to work or turn on the lights do not care where the help comes from. Whether the money comes from the states or the federal government, victims of disasters are grateful for any aid they receive because of the desperate conditions they are in.

Any form of aid from the government will grant security to the victims who are affected by these disasters, allowing for both a strong and better-connected nation.