After Sandy: United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Sandy’s aftermath: "United we stand, divided we fall"
By Sal Luciano
Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 6:02 AM EST
Journal Inquirer

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Those words have never been more applicable than they are in the wake of deadly Hurricane Sandy. Each one of us left alone cannot accomplish the monumental task of digging out of from under the debris and rebuilding our communities.

That is what is at stake in this election — the Romney/Ryan/McMahon “Every Man For Himself” doctrine versus President Barack Obama’s American ideal of pulling together in time of need.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Linda McMahon would run America as a business that would exclusively benefit all their “1 percenter” friends. As for the other 99 percent of America, well, you and I are on our own.

A tragic event like Sandy dramatizes how that dogma is unworkable in our country. Yet Romney, Ryan, and McMahon blithely carry on, secure in their intent to parcel off America just like a corporate takeover target and let services suffer while profiteers cash in. There was no profit motive leading thousands of first responders in the wake of Sandy. They ran toward the danger, not away, dedicated to saving and protecting 100 percent of Americans, with no regard to financial status. To them, any person who needs help gets help.

There is no profit in letting your neighbors recharge their handheld devices and computers in your store or your home. There is no profit in donating canned food so other families won’t go hungry during the crisis. These and many other acts of bravery and selflessness during Sandy are hardwired into the American spirit — the spirit of helping the community, not the spirit of profiting off misery.

Romney and the extremists are still looking to take down the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been crucial to the recovery effort. Out on the campaign trail, Romney said this when asked about FEMA funding: “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. If you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Alarming words, indeed. The track record shows that Republicans in Congress proposed cutting FEMA’s budget by nearly $90 million; in 2012, they proposed over $180 million more in cuts. In fact, Republicans even threatened to shut down the entire government last year if funding for disaster relief wasn’t offset by spending cuts elsewhere. The Romney-Ryan budget would deeply cut FEMA and disaster relief and without doubt, McMahon would gladly support such initiative — it’s “ditto head” thinking that has become prevalent in the Republican Party.

We support the American ideal of being united. (After all, it’s our country’s first name.) We have always helped our neighbors when they needed help, be it during natural disasters, in times of crisis, or when our economy has taken a downturn.

President Obama and his party share this ideal. He saved a million jobs by rescuing GM and Chrysler. Romney by contrast said Detroit should go bankrupt (now, in true “Romney style,” he is shamelessly trying to backtrack). Obama said we need more firefighters, police, and teachers. His administration has created almost 5 million jobs in the past four years — in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Romney is on record saying he enjoys firing people and that 47 percent of Americans are a bunch of freeloaders.

Romney, Ryan, McMahon, and the Republicans are appealing to naked self-interest. They are advocating trickle-down economics, more privatization (including Medicare and Social Security), weaker unions, tax breaks for the rich, and a corresponding greater financial burden on the middle class. Our country experimented with that for eight years, and it brought our nation to the brink of collapse. The “every-man-for-himself” dogma is the last thing we need now and for the next four years.

In Sandy’s aftermath, public-service workers, electrical crews, transit workers, health-care professionals, sanitation workers, and so many others have worked tirelessly to put our devastated cities and towns back together. It’s working people who are helping to repair the damage and rebuild the communities impacted by this disaster.

That’s not an accident. It’s called government. It’s what happens when we pull together. Think about that when you head to the polls Nov. 6.

Sal Luciano is executive director of Council 4 AFSCME in New Britain, a union representing 34,000 Connecticut workers.