Tomasky puts the debate in perspective:
The only reason FEMA is “controversial” is that it massively effed up one big thing, Katrina. But the reason it screwed that up is that the president at the time didn’t give a crap about the agency and put a guy in charge of it who had no business whatsoever being in that position. And so, logically enough, they screwed it up, and tragically. But now that FEMA is being run by someone who’s actually interested in doing his job well and fulfilling his agency’s mission, there’s basically nothing wrong with the way it works.
Jonathan Cohn argues along the same lines:
States do many things well and, frequently, the most successful federal programs are the ones that let states innovate or take charge in those instances when they are positioned to do so. Emergency management happens to be one of them: Fulgate’s mantra at FEMA is to let states take the lead, with the federal government giving them the tools to do their job.
But even those programs require presidential-level commitment to a vibrant bureaucracy and, yes, serious federal spending. And that’s not something Romney, or his allies, endorse. On the contrary, Romney’s spending proposal would call for massive cuts to domestic spending. And if Romney wanted to add FEMA to the list of programs he’d spare, that’d simply mean more cuts to other programs—from food inspections to health clinics to air traffic control—on which public safety and well-being depend.
— Jmaan33 (@Jmaan33) October 30, 2012