Blue City Politics & Commentary

Steven J. Gulitti

Steven J. Gulitti

Steven J. Gulitti
New York, New York, USA
March 27
I am a resident of N.Y.C., and a political independent. I attended SUNY Buffalo (BA) and University of Illinois (MA) and NYU (Professional Certificate). I am a retired commissioned Chief Warrant Officer and 25-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. I am member of the Iron Workers Union and a freelance writer who has been published in textbook, periodical and professional venues. I contributed a subchapter to the textbook The Tea Party Movement, part of the Current Controversies Series.

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OCTOBER 31, 2012 8:00AM

C'mon Mitt, Privatizing Disaster Relief Would be a Disaster

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with the upcoming election a factor, one thing is apparent and that is that Mitt Romney is no better off at figuring out disaster relief than he was at figuring out which countries constitute our geopolitical enemies. You see Romney is busy backpedaling on his earlier comments about shutting down FEMA.

Let's look at those prior statements that are now causing Romney so many headaches: "During a CNN debate at the height of the GOP primary, Mitt Romney was asked, in the context of the Joplin disaster and FEMA's cash crunch, whether the agency should be shuttered so that states can individually take over responsibility for disaster response."Absolutely," he said. "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. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?" Now let's contrast Romney's statements, made during the primaries when he was pandering to the far right of the Republican Party with the situation now: "Mitt Romney repeatedly ignored questions about his position on federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at an event for storm victims Tuesday...“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?” one [reporter] asked." Not surprisingly aides to Governor Romney insisted that he would not abolish FEMA. If you look at the statements made by Romney aides it's apparent that the campaign is attempting to spin its way out of suggesting that FEMA should be eliminated: “Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” Well it looks like one thing is for sure, the word "absolutely" no longer has a fixed meaning in the lexicon of  Romney's political play book.

Okay so Romney's original statements are full of stock conservative talking points which he relied on so heavily during the primaries, but do they make any sense when the facts of national disasters are taken into account? Emphatically not. Federal disaster aid, no matter how many problems we've encountered with it, still represents a better model for dealing with widespread disasters. Why, because it allows for an aggregation of resources and funding that no individual state can achieve on its own. Consider the states of Mississippi and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they couldn't possibly have been able to marshal the resources and the funding required to deal with the response let alone the rebuilding. Here's just one example, the 2012 budget for the State of Louisiana is $25.5 billion and that figure was still the subject of possible further spending cuts to the tune of $303.7 million. Now the rebuilding of the flood control system around New Orleans came with a price tag of $14.5 billion, which represents 57 percent of the total Louisiana state budget. Is it likely that Louisiana's Governor would have allocated more than half his budget to one disaster abatement project? The answer is of course not and this is the type of example that makes Romney's idea that federal disaster relief can be eliminated just so much farce and folly. Moreover, the idea that private disaster measures can do what state and federal efforts do is just plain wrongheaded. We already have an empirical example of the failure of private charity to address widespread disaster. That example came at the onset of the Great Depression when private efforts were swamped by a unprecedented crisis and the needs of millions of Americans was left unaddressed. Thus we need not reinvent the wheel here so as to prove once again that Romney's original approach is a losing proposition. Needless to say, Romney's relief road show in Ohio and his comments that people should donate to private charities have both political and ideological overtones which can't be denied.

Are there serious flaws in federal disaster relief, yes. Does that mean we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater, of course not and only a conservative ideologue with a lack of practical or historical perspective would suggest such an idea. Why conservatives continue to harken back nostalgically to past programs and approaches that have failed isn't a mystery to me. It is indicative of a movement that is ideologically exhausted and that is busy pedaling old wine in new bottles for want of new and engaging ideas. I always find it ironic, if not tragically amusing, when conservative governors carry on about trimming the federal government and slashing taxes but then look to that same government when disaster strikes, seeking the relief that their very ideas have put in jeopardy in the first place. It's more than a bit ironic that Barack Obama's constant critic, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has been praising federal efforts post Hurricane Sandy, the president in particular, while at the same time saying that he cares not if Mitt Romney visits the Garden State.

The solution to problems with federal disaster relief isn't to be found in Mitt Romney's original statements, his new spin or among the thoughts of conservatives generally. Instead we need to apply to FEMA the same rigor and discipline that presently exists in small and efficient federal organizations, like the Marine Corps, Coast Guard or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Branch. We have existing models that provide transferable templates for reform and as such there's no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to federal disaster assistance. As is the case in assessing what we can expect from a Romney presidency in the realm of disaster response the same questions come to the fore as have emerged in other policy areas, which version of "multiple choice Mitt" will we get if we elect him in November? For this writer, however, when it comes to this topic my response is the same as that given by Colin Powell when he commented on Romney's approach to foreign policy: C'mon Mitt, think!

Steven J. Gulitti



Mitt Romney In GOP Debate: Shut Down Federal Disaster Agency, Send Responsibility To The States;

Romney ignores questions about eliminating FEMA;

Romney Denies He Would Eliminate FEMA;

Gov. Bobby Jindal aims to cut Louisiana state budget into shape;

Vast Defenses Now Shielding New Orleans;

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Mitt wants to do for disaster relief what Cheney and Rumsfeld to the military supply chain. God help us when Halliburton and Blackwater are put in charge of disaster relief.
I think Christie was always a reluctant backer of Romney and really just went through the motions. Unlike Romney, who used his governorship of MA as a stepping stone, Christie loves his state. (Plus, if you want to be cynical, he's up for re-election in 2013, I believe.)

Excellent post, Steven.
Can somebody help with a question?

Why am I responsible for helping rebuild the homes and cities of those who choose to live on the sea shores of the Gulf and Atlantic oceans?
Mitt wants to do to FEMA what he wants to do to Medicare. Turn it over to private vultures who will charge more and do less.

I think Christie is part doing what he does and part hedging his bet. It's one thing to praise Obama, another to twist the knife by doing it repeatedly. He knows Romney will probably lose, and Christie is looking at 2016.

The answer is you live in the United States of America, not the Libertarian States of Complaint. If a freak weather system strikes Arizona, perhaps dropping atmospheric pressure to record lows and bursting every retiree's colostomy bag, FEMA will help scoop the poop. Yes, state and local government will help supply shelters until the flood damage is cleared, but it takes a massive federal effort well beyond the means of any state or locality. Your national citizen sovereignty karma will come back to benefit you.

If that never happens in sunny AZ, then you'll continue to contribute to damage repair in other states, which most Americans see as a civic duty. In your dissent from the American ethic, you're just shit out of luck.
Intelligent people thought yours was a rhetorical question, since the answer is self-evident -- or at least it will be -- even to you -- when disaster strikes you or your community.
which states are net consumers of federal funds?

red states.

as you would expect. they are characterized by poor public education, so are less likely to participate in modern technological industry and commerce.

but it is not hypocrisy for republican politicians to take federal aid while urging it's removal. perfectly natural. antelopes may well say 'there should be no cheetahs," but still run when one comes into view. you can sympathize.

still, if you want to be respected, you won't complain about being mugged if you can not or will not hire a body guard.

Your opinion regarding PJOR's intelligence is noted. We will add it to an ever widening list of agreement.



Thank you. I knew a fool would rush in from somewhere.


Perhaps, with your self professed encyclopedic knowledge of the Constitution, you can point to the section that specifically authorizes the national government to forcibly take from all of us for the purpose of regularly underwriting the lifestyle of those few who risk living where they so often must avail themselves of the FEMA emergency room for which they apparently can’t pay.

Perhaps you can also point to the section that authorizes the disbursements to those few.


Here's another thought.

Perhaps you can tell me why we shouldn’t do away with FEMA under a system similar to the ACA. We’ll call it the AFA.

We all will have to buy flood insurance, whether we need it or not; and, if we don’t comply, then the penalty is a tax, thereby making the law constitutional. Under the AFA, no property could be denied flood insurance.

Under the AFA, the national government tells the flood insurance companies how to write their policies. Such policies must effectively disregard whether the property to be protected is in the middle of the Mississippi River or in the middle of Death Valley with respect to the coverage provided and with respect to deductibles, co-pays, etc., demanded. The premiums charged for the Mississippi property may not be more than three times the premiums charged for the Death Valley property.

These changes will, of course, drastically raise flood insurance premiums. The irony will be that such premiums were supposed to be lowered, since all would have to jump into the risk pool.

The AFA will set minimums for what flood insurance companies must disburse in claims. The AFA will appoint a board of 15 members to adjust reimbursement schedules should fiscal ruin rear its ugly head in the flood insurance industry.

The regulations attendant to the AFA will force those who have moral convictions against purchasing flood insurance to purchase flood insurance, nevertheless. While this will exclude churches, it will include church sponsored institutions, even if they are self-insured through their sponsoring religious organization.

It’s a model that should work, eh?


Better yet, Paul, years ago I took a risk. I loaned a guy some money to start an aircraft storage facility at the old Clinton Sherman Air Force Base in Foss, Oklahoma. He went belly up within two years.

However, I see this as the same kind of risk that those who live in hurricane alley take. Would you mind if Congress passed a law that indemnifies us all from the harm caused when those to whom we lend money go bankrupt?
I know something about the Constitution. You know nothing about it, which means your laughably errant interpretations don't count. However, if you will show us all where it is not authorized, we can have another laugh. You're the most fun when you're pulling those constitutional theories out of your ass. I bet you'd spend less time learning something worth knowing than you do digging around in your rancid Rolodex.

You have a fine idea for Congress to consider. You may remember Congress is one of those branches of government created by the Constitution. They write laws. They could write your law, for example, or heap more insurance benefits on American homeowners. They could do both and be well within the scope of the Constitution.

The Founders envisioned this thing called politics. In fact, that's what the whole legislative/executive branch thing is about. If The People don't like some legislation they can compel their representatives to vote against it. Sometimes The People like legislation and compel their representatives to vote for it. Some laws pass. Some do not. Some are rescinded. Others are not.

This fulfills the Founder's vision of government, and shows that some limitations of government are political, as the Constitution is not a legal code, it's a legal foundation. It was written with the knowledge it could not foresee every political necessity. You ask more of it than it is, and demand less than it allows. Maybe you think asking silly questions about it makes you look like you know something. You don't.

My deep sorrow at your loss aside, your closing question implies I support laws covering what are, to a great degree, probable losses. As usual, it's an element of arguing with yourself, which is your best bet of ever winning one.

If you're having trouble explaining where the Constitution doesn't allow some FEMA functions, I'm sure a label-recommended dose of Metamucil will coax it out. Looking forward to your interpretation, at least after you hose it off.
What thoughtful, caring people are in need of is insurance to protect us from the political fallout caused by The Imperfect Storm: lame-brained Libertarians, terroristic Teapartians, feeble-minded Fuxviewers, cretinous climate change deniers, self-righteous simpletons, wrong-headed right to lifers, kindergarten kristians, original intent oligarchs, larcenous lobbyists, barbarous banksters, chainsaw capitalists, low-information Luddites and all the rest of the reactionary reprobates on the Rabid Right.
Thanks for reminding us of his exact words. They are damning in the extreme and no amount of backpedaling should be accepted.

What you know about the Constitution makes idiots feel good about themselves. Your existence is well justified in this regard.

The rest of us who graduated sixth grade know that the Tenth Amendment makes no sense under your interpretation of the Constitution as a document written to make explicit what is not authorized to the national government. Instead, as the rest of the world seems to know, the Constitution is a document that lists the powers assigned to the national government and that then declares that all other powers not so assigned (or prohibited to the States) belong to the States, or to the people.

What is not authorized to the national government is thereby implicit, Paul, as well as large, given the realtively short list of powers and duties assigned to the government headquartered in Washington DC.

Thus, it’s your duty to answer the question I posed regarding what clause of the Constitution empowers our national government to force us in Arizona to underwrite the losses of those who risk living in hurricane alley. It’s not my duty to point out the clause in the Constitution that forbids such action any more than I already have.

It's easy to understand how today’s Liberals need to interpret the Constitution as you do. After all, interpreting it as the writers intended stands squarely in the way of the changes and the reforms the present day Left seek when crying for more government at the discovery of each new social ill. Certainly many who believe as you do must appreciate your efforts in this area, incorrect and weak as they are.

Frankly, I appreciate your efforts in this regard, as well. You are a useful tool, Paul. That would be the second thing for which your existence benefits others. The third is, of course, the fact that you are the super model of an ego gone wild and therefore a blessing to the psychological community.

So, onto the General Welfare clause? Or, do you have another theory?
You don't even know the idiot's bad and rote arguments about the Constitution, and your thin and weirdly devoid of detail moronic assumptions are worse.

The limits are defined in the text and jurisprudence/precedents, not up your ass. Yet all you offer is a laughably ethereal, hand-waving, smoke-billowing and tautological declaration of the limits being limits. Those limits aren't limitless, Chris claimed, as titters of laughter ran through the audience....

The art 1 sec 8 powers of Congress are limited, but also expansive, plenary and implied. Even powers like the tax/spend General Welfare are limited, both in the text and by politics, but expansive in a wide range of potential application. The same is true of the powers that follow, as they are also expansive, plenary and chock-full of implication and political limits, down to necessary and proper.

Elected representatives vote on legislation...welcome to the political nature and expansiveness and limitations of the US Constitution, operating as designed. Yes, numbnuts, in the Philadelphia Convention, the ratification debates and the Bill of Rights debates in the 1st Congress...a fed gov of both explicit and implied powers was widely acknowledged as the intent of the Constitution. In other words, the Founders didn't agree with you, but then they knew something about the Constitution. And for the most part, weren't loudmouthed, ignorant posers.

So, ye who makes the claim and thus shoulders the burden of proof, show us the clause that proves (insert any claim here) is beyond the powers of Congress. Because Mr Logic has never left a package at your house, I am explaining that you must find this in the text or jurisprudence as no amount of inane incantations about the redundant and largely impotent 10th will ever produce a relevant answer.

You don't know anything about this subject, Chris, which makes one wonder why you keep bringing it up. I understand it's part of the Right's whiny-assed argument and no real knowledge is required to babble about the Constitution and Limited Gub'mint, but that shtick is for use when nobody is there to challenge your pretense.

You should just launch a complaint about whatever pisses you off, such as FEMA, flood insurance, etc, based on its efficacy. Why you feel compelled to make it a constitutional argument when you don't know from Shinola about it is a case study in self-delusion.

Don't even fake challenging me, Chris. You are in way over your head. Half-wit circumlocution isn't knowledge, isn't an argument and isn't fooling anybody. You're a joke.

But why not write a post describing everything you think you know about the Constitution and General Welfare? I could use a laugh and as you obviously enjoy being a whipping boy, you can extract pleasure as well.

It’s always easy to spot when you lose one of these arguments. You become a babbling fountain of incoherencies amid personal attacks.

Here you are at your most incomprehensible, most ambiguous, and vaguest:

“The art 1 sec 8 powers of Congress are limited, but also expansive, plenary and implied.”

WTF does that even mean, if anything? Why didn’t you just say that these powers are both colorful as well as colorless? Or tall, while at the same time being short?

Let me give you an example of much clearer writing on this topic:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Now, why don’t you go off on this author?

It’s likely most know who the pretender is here, Paul.


Be the foregoing as it may, Paul, you are always my willing tool. Therefore, let me propose the following:

We accept your claim that the Constitution is an unclear, confusing, unintelligible document signifying nothing. Consequently, the motivation to interpret any part of it goes away; and all things thereby become constitutional.

Under these circumstances, we develop the national policy that those who stupidly continue to live in the probable paths of hurricanes regularly have their homes and cities rebuilt with the help of those taxpayers smart enough not to live in the paths of hurricanes. Wouldn’t this seem to beg the question whether those who live in cooler areas of country should subsidize the extra electricity used to cool the homes of those stupid enough to live in Phoenix during the summer?

After all, both the New Jersey hurricane girls and Arizona sun boys derive their problems from their local weather. Correct?

We could expand this under your view of the Constitution, Paul.

Why not have those who live in the warmer regions of this great country subsidize the winter utility bills associated with heating the homes of those who stupidly live in Fargo during the winter? Maybe we could also come up with snowplow purchase, maintenance and use subsidies as well as shade tree planting, fertilizing, trimming, and watering subsidies.

In fact, Paul, why not have all Americans provide sufficient additional tax revenue to the national government for the purpose of securing the same utility bills for all? Isn’t that a logical extension of the misguided empathy at work here?

The expansion of our national government under such policies boggles my mind. . . . .

Why have we not already arrived at this national policy?

You know how much we all want to hear your thoughts on these matters.
You just blew more fog. Why is it you can't cite chapter and verse to back up your claims? The Constitution is written in plain English, even if there's ample example of ambiguity. Instead, like a brain dead Killdeer, you screech and drag your broken wing around anything BUT the Constitution. Why?

Because you don't know the first f-in' thing about it.

I like this example of your ignorance and desperation. I say:

“The art 1 sec 8 powers of Congress are limited, but also expansive, plenary and implied.”
You respond:
"WTF does that even mean, if anything? Why didn’t you just say that these powers are both colorful as well as colorless? Or tall, while at the same time being short?"

The powers are limited -- not infinite. They're just not as limited as your limited examination and limited mind has led you to claim.

The powers are plenary -- vested with Congress, not states, in areas where Congress chooses to use its powers. Supremacy.

The powers are implied -- not specific. Even the unambiguous powers, like forming a Navy, do not describe the means of doing so. That's why "necessary and proper" is both necessary and proper, and equally implies, but does not specify, those powers.

So, Chris-of-the-boob-blunder, the misunderstanding...and really weird and dumb attempt at on your end. Also in your end, but I've described that well enough already. There is no mutual exclusivity be found in my entirely true and clear statement. Only a unimoron would see an oxymoron there. Congrats, you qualify!

Nice Madison quote. It also does nothing to describe those limits, it only says they are there. He agrees with me. Like your offerings of non-specific specifics (speaking of oxymoron), it does absolutely nothing to bolster your argument. What Madison said is quite true, but also a salesman's statement. It actually does nothing to define congressional power, but the wording lends a positive spin to those concerned about federal powers.

There are many ways fed power is limited, but you can't describe how. I can. But the power it has is much more than your silly self-created and hopelessly unsupported theory allows.

Anyway, it had no real influence on the ratification debates outside of Virginia, or perhaps New York. It's just something Madison said and has no force because it's not the Constitution, and it's too damn vague to have any specific meaning.

Why do you cite quotes that don't support your argument?

Because you're not very smart.

And then, to maintain your reputation as being an argumentative idiot, you once again commence to argue with yourself:

"We accept your claim that the Constitution is an unclear, confusing, unintelligible document signifying nothing. Consequently, the motivation to interpret any part of it goes away; and all things thereby become constitutional."

Of course, I never said or implied that, but you're a stupid person in a futile search for anything that resembles recovery. You're jerking off, again. You have gone beyond glasses to needing somebody to read this to you.

You don't know shit, Chris, and you're too damn dumb to admit it. You have not, for a moment, in any way, by any method -- up to and including osmosis -- done even the most minimal investigation to learn anything worth knowing about the Constitution. You're a incompetent fakir and a bloviating airhead, trying to bullshit your way through an argument on a subject you know less than nothing about. You have gone beyond complete joke to becoming a legendary fool.

You should take some time off and at least learn the really dumb and easily debunked constitutional arguments of your brain-dead cohort. I'll knock them down singularly or in bulk, beyond refutation. You have not presented an argument here, just brain-bereft histrionics and a necessarily dumbed-down all-powerful-or not premise nobody but you offered.

Someday, if Mr Logic finally does deliver that package you need to be able to approach me, you should come back and, knowing you actually never had a constitutional argument to make, start bitching about FEMA and flood insurance.

PS--You'll never be able to win, or even break even, in an argument with me.

Run along, wannabe.
A good follow-on piece:

Charity’s Role in America, and Its Limits

To wit: "Looming cuts to federal programs and shrinking state budgets mean that charity will have a bigger void to fill. But one of the things that induces people to give to these causes is a break on their taxes. It is legitimate to ask whether a government pressed for money should be forgoing $40 billion a year in tax breaks mostly pocketed by the rich for their charitable donations...For all the trust we put in big philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad deploying vast resources for the public good, private charitable contributions have been stuck around 2 percent of personal income for years, according to the Center on Philanthropy. Corporate donations have never increased much above 1 percent of pretax profits...The nation’s philanthropists tend to prefer charity to taxes because they get to decide which cause is worthy. The flip side is that philanthropy is pretty much unaccountable to society. Unfettered by democratic controls and dictated by the preferences of donors, it doesn’t have a great track record of devoting itself to our most pressing social needs."