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?"
"Including disaster relief, though?" debate moderator John King asked Romney.
"We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids," Romney replied. "It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all." The clip was flagged by HuffPost blogger Eric Zuesse.
UPDATE Sunday, 10:04 p.m.--
A Romney official reaffirmed the former governor's position Sunday evening in an email.
"Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters," the Romney official said.
UPDATE II Monday, 9:10 a.m.--
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent adds: "There’s another nugget here worth highlighting, though. In that appearance, Romney also suggested it would be 'even better' to send any and all responsibilities of the federal government 'to the private sector,' disaster response included. So: Romney essentially favored privatizing disaster response."