FDNY fire and rescue personnel lead a boat of ConEd power workers through flood waters after their power station was over fun by flood waters in New York, October 29, 2012. Nineteen workers were trapped inside a Consolidated Edison power station on the east side of Manhattan Monday night by rising floodwaters that accompanied the surge from powerful storm Sandy, according to a Reuters witness. A rescue worker said the station had suffered an explosion inside. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)
The images coming out of New York City, New Jersey, and elsewhere along Hurricane Sandy's path are staggering. Flooding, fires, winds, buildings crumbling or burning—and rescue efforts. Fire fighters making their way to rescue people trapped by floods. Nurses manually giving air to children from intensive care as a hospital is evacuated. Fire fighters, again, battling massive blazes. In times like this, we're reminded that sometimes every single one of us needs help beyond what we can do for ourselves. We need strong infrastructure and a government equipped to protect our lives and the subways and bridges and hospitals we depend on. It's that infrastructure and that help that Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to cut when they talk about big government, about wanting to "cut back" on fire fighters and police and teachers.

This isn't some kind of small, cheaply political distinction to draw. This gets to the heart of the different between the parties, between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. When disaster strikes, do you want the government to have enough fire fighters to send out to pull you from the flood or to put out the fire? Or do you want to rely on a business to come and save you in Romney's ideal world in which disaster relief has been "sent back to the private sector"? Can you guarantee that if something like Sandy hits and millions of people need help, you'll have bought the platinum package that puts you at the top of your private sector safety contractor's rescue list? Most of us can't.

We need government—need not just fire fighters and police and nurses but the safety inspectors who will tell us which buildings and tunnels are safe to go into, the construction workers and engineers who will pump out and repair those flooded tunnels and train tracks and roads. We need more than bottled water and canned food donated by well-meaning individuals, as Romney's campaign is seeking. We need skilled workers and large-scale planning. It's the availability of this kind of help that has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a keynote speaker at Romney's Republican National Convention, praising President Obama.

Republicans launch their attacks on public workers and the role of government by pointing to the peaceful moments, when the fire fighters sit around waiting to be called. But that's not how we should measure disaster preparedness, as Hurricane Sandy has so powerfully reminded us. And acts of charity, however well intended, are not how we recover from disaster.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Oct 30, 2012 at 07:33 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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