In Manhattan and everywhere Sandy is wreaking havoc, firefighters are serving their fellow citizens at a time of need. They were there when the crane fell in NYC, when a facade fell, in Atlantic City and more.
Firefighters matter in an emergency. Remember when Governor Romney mocked President Obama for saying we needed more firefighters? That wasn’t just political posturing. Mitt Romney has a long, sordid history of fighting firefighters, dating back to his term as Governor of Massachusetts when he “used a line-item veto to cut ‘millions of dollars for firefighting equipment,’ including firefighters’ ‘coats, pants, helmets and boots.'”
Romney also made cuts to firefighters, police and teachers that “led to the laying off of about 14,500 workers in total over the course of Romney’s term.” Furthermore, Paul Ryan’s budget would cut firefighting support by 19 percent.
In Iowa on June 8th of this year, Mitt Romney was mocking President Obama for saying we needed more firefighters, police and teachers. Romney said, “He wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”
Romney was reacting to Obama saying we needed more jobs in state and local government because May, 13,000 government jobs had been eliminated in May (these jobs were cut by Republican governors around the country, leading to a job loss in the public sector — in fact the last three years have been the worst on record for the public sector) while 82,000 jobs were added in the private sector.
Romney said Obama’s comments about firefighters and teachers would “go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who’s out of touch.”
Asked to respond to Romney’s May comments about not needing more firefighters, the president of the International Association of Firefighters told Salon, “It doesn’t surprise us at all. It’s very consistent with our experience with him and his view about our responsibility to keep our communities safe. His actions as governor, as candidate for president, have made it clear that he’s willing to jeopardize the safety of our communities.”
Salon reported on Romney’s epic battles with firefighters as Governor:
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney often ended up sparring with firefighters and their unions. He proposed stripping collective bargaining rights for firefighters and police officers in a city that needed a state bailout, and cut funding to a fire station to be built on the site where six firemen died. He also proposed tripling the state police budget to deal with homeland security concerns in the years after 9/11, but didn’t offer a dime for firefighters, angering many at the time.
In July, while fighting the Colorado fires, Aurora firefighter Steve Clapham responded to Romney’s comments about cutting federal funding to firefighters by telling Huffington Post, “Given the severe fire danger right now is there anyone who really believes we need less firefighters? The American people need leaders who will invest in firefighters and in public safety. We need the support of politicians who understand the importance of the job that we do.”
It’s most telling that Romney wouldn’t walk back his June comments about cutting back on firefighters after he made them. The media was expecting him to explain that he had gaffed, but his campaign refused to respond directly to requests for clarification, while his surrogate Sununu referred to the “wisdom” of Romney’s comments. By now, when Romney won’t get specific, we get worried because it can only mean one thing: We won’t like the answer so he’d rather avoid telling us the truth.
The crisis of Sandy offers us yet another opportunity to understand the importance of our first responders and what the function of government is.
Image: Firemen search for people trapped in their cars at 14th street and Avenue C in Manhattan @michaelchristopherbrown, Time Instagram