Defund FEMA and the TSA: A Republican Proposal Fulfilled Under Trump
Is Donald Trump taking a strategy out of Mitt Romey‘s 2012 presidential playbook? Yes. Romney wanted to defund FEMA.
Donald Trump has proposed budget cuts for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA), two departments that have been plagued by controversy in recent years.
In 2016, FEMA’s budget was $13.9 billion. The TSA’s 2016 budget was $7.3 billion.
FEMA was founded in 1978 partially in response to the Love Canal, a toxic waste dump that sickened people. Under George W. Bush, FEMA’s role was massively expanded with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
Bush also created the TSA after the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
Return to Romney: Trump’s Move to Defund FEMA was Mitt’s Idea
It is expected that Trump will work to privatize some of the functions of FEMA and the TSA, and will transfer other functions to the state. This idea is not new.
Back in 2012, Mitt Romney proposed shutting FEMA down, an idea that had liberals like Paul Krugman freaking out.
In a conspiratorial blog post to the New York Times, Krugman stated:
“So let me just take a moment to flag an issue others have been writing about: the weird Republican obsession with killing FEMA. Kevin Drum has the goods: they just keep doing it. George Bush the elder turned the agency into a dumping ground for hacks, with bad results; Clinton revived the agency; Bush the younger ruined it again; Obama revived it again; and Romney — with everyone still remembering Brownie and Katrina! — said that he wants to block-grant and privatize it. (And as far as I can tell, even TV news isn’t letting him Etch-A-Sketch the comment away).
“There’s something pathological here. It’s really hard to think of a public service less likely to be suitable for privatization, and given the massive inequality of impacts by state, it really really isn’t block-grantable. Does the right somehow imagine that only Those People need disaster relief? Is the whole idea of helping people as opposed to hurting them just anathema?
“It’s a bit of a mystery, calling more for psychological inquiry than policy analysis. But something is going on here.”
Krugman was technically incorrect about his assertion that Romney planned to “privatize” FEMA. In a 2012 debate for the Republican nomination, Romney asserted that he wanted to distribute the roles and functions of FEMA to individual states.
KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. 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.
The “privatization” of FEMA isn’t a true transfer to the private sector. Romney proposed that individual states take over disaster management and response. Likely, Trump would do the same.