With Hurricane Sandy set to make landfall in the Mid-Atlantic, Mitt Romney's policies for federal emergency management seem as relevant as ever. And the candidate's budget, as described below, isn't the only indication Romney would slash funding: As the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim noted, the presidential candidate suggested during a GOP primary debate that he would diminish the agency's role and leave responsibility for helping imperiled Americans to the states:
"FEMA also helps states and local governments repair or replace public facilities and infrastructure, which often is not insured," the CBPP report explained. "This form of discretionary federal aid would be subject to cuts under the Ryan budget. If it were scaled back substantially, states and localities would need to bear a larger share of the costs of disaster response and recovery, or attempt to make do with less during difficult times."
The Ryan budget makes no mention of FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security of which it's a part. In fact it makes no mention of any specific cuts to non-entitlement programs. We can't say for sure, in other words, the extent to which disaster funding would be scaled back. But the overall math suggests that it would be drastic. The Ryan budget proposes reducing total non-entitlement spending from 12 percent of GDP to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2050. As my colleague Kevin Drum put it:
Defense spending alone amounts to 4% of GDP, and it's vanishingly unlikely that this will ever fall much below 2-3% of GDP. This means that all domestic spending will decline from about 8% of GDP to 1-2% of GDP by 2050. That's prisons, border control, education, the FBI, courts, embassies, the IRS, FEMA, housing, student loans, roads, unemployment insurance, etc. etc. It's everything. Whacked by about 80% or so.
Romney's own proposed budget (which like Ryan's fails to identify specific cuts) would create much the same bind. Between 2013 and 2022, Romney would cut between $2 to $5 trillion more than Ryan from programs other than Social Security or defense. As the CBPP noted, "Romney's cuts would shrink non-defense discretionary spending...to between 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent of GDP." That's on top of the scheduled cuts agreed to in last year's budget deal.
Just as Ryan's proposed Medicare expenditure would fail to keep up with rising medical costs, the GOP ticket's likely cuts to disaster management and weather forecasting budgets would come at a time in which, fueled by climate change, natural disasters are becoming increasingly more potent and expensive. There were 14 billion-dollar disasters in the United States in 2011—the most on record.
—By Tim Murphy