Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy's shift in politics.

Big Storm could change politics in America. 900 mile wide
storm from a NASA  image.
Hurricane Sandy has upended the presidential race, forcing both President Obama and Mitt Romney to virtually suspend their campaigns in the final week before Election Day. However, while Romney waits and watches, Obama has some actual “There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement, that is a factual statement,” Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, said. He was right about the urgent need to talk about climate change; even if the origin of Hurricane—or rather “Superstorm”—Sandy is a mystery of weather randomness, it is undeniably true, as Cuomo put it, that “we have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns.” (Elizabeth Kolbert has more on that.) But he was very wrong about another thing: what he said is a political statement, or ought to be. Refusing to have a political conversation about climate change now is akin to the insistence that the aftermath of a mass shooting is somehow an improper moment to talk about America’s gun laws.Hurricane Sandy, in the wily and savage way of natural disasters, expressed its full assortment of lethal methods as it hit the East Coast on Monday night. In its howling sweep, the authorities said the storm claimed at least 40 lives in eight states. The presidential campaigns aren't the only political operations trying to decide what to do after hurricane Sandy swept aside the final-week playbook of this election.The super-storm has upended some tight congressional races as well – putting a weather-related pause in some campaigns and steering others in new directions. In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown (R) and challenger Elizabeth Warren (D) were scheduled to hold a final televised debate Tuesday night, but the event ended up being cancelled because of the storm. The race is one of the tightest Senate contests in the nation, as the two parties battle for control of the Senate in the next Congress.In Connecticut, too, Sandy's raging winds supplanted the fury of political campaigning. The storm prompted contenders in another close Senate race to go on hiatus, and focus on helping residents find safety and relief. The storm’s path along the Eastern Seaboard ripped across a wide swath of blue state America. The list of hardest hit states includes many of the states expected to deliver the biggest victory margins for the president this year — among them New York, which delivered a 2 million vote winning margin to President Obama in 2008. While the extent to which elections will be disrupted next week is unclear, the extensive power outages, flooding and wreckage from North Carolina to Maine are certain to have an impact on campaign ground games and could work to depress voter turnout in some places. That shouldn’t affect the electoral vote — New York, for example, will still deliver its 29 electoral votes to Barack Obama regardless of the damage to lower Manhattan — but in an exceptionally tight election, lower turnout in the most Democratic states increases the odds of a scenario where Obama wins the Electoral College but loses the popular vote. With the presidential race essentially tied, even small changes to the electorate could influence the outcome. It is difficult to say, though, which political party is more advantaged by the storm, according to Peter Ubertaccio, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies at Stonehill College, Easton, Mass. 


In a break with recent history, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has enough money to cover the initial response to Hurricane Sandy. But that doesn't mean FEMA is out of the woods -- and it certainly doesn't mean the storm will be an exception to the politics of disaster funding.
The agency faces about $878 million in cuts if lawmakers fail to avoid the looming sequester, according to an estimate the White House provided to Congress last month. Members of both parties have said they hope to prevent the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts -- which are slated to take effect in January -- but the path to an agreement is far from clear.It seems the U.S. has billions to spend on a decade of war, with NO clear objective, billions to spend on foreign aid that go to countries that hate us, billions to bail out companies that are mis-managed, so that those same companies can pay out millions in bonus money to their elite. Yet when disaster strikes our homes, business and threatens our life, there is a funding issue ?
Something is wrong with this picture If past is prologue, the FEMA budget will soon be the subject of partisan finger-pointing even as President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are holding their fire for now. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told reporters this week the agency has $3.6 billion to pay for the federal response to Sandy -- though it is too early to tell whether additional funding will be needed when the total cost of the storm is known. That's a contrast with last summer, when the agency found itself cash-starved during Hurricane Irene and forced to suspend some payments related to previous disasters in order to cover the gap. That led to a nasty fight in Congress over whether additional funds should be offset with cuts elsewhere.

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