Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who has made giving Washington “the boot” a major theme in his campaign to be governor, said Friday it is “apples and oranges” to compare his criticism of the federal government with Tennessee’s desperate need for federal disaster assistance.
Ramsey has been criticized this week for insensitivity with his relentless complaints about what he views as an oppressive federal government against states at a time Tennesseans are seeking substantial help from the federal government in relief after last week’s flooding.
Ramsey’s campaign ads have featured his black boots with the lieutenant governor saying instead of doing things the Washington way, “We’ll give ’em the boot.”
He was asked today after an appearance at a Republican political function in Nashville if it is insensitive to say “give ’em the boot” at a time when the state needs help from the federal government.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “That’s apples and oranges. What we’re talking about in the ‘give ’em the boot’ ad is the oppressive ObamaCare that’s been pushed down on the states from the federal government and requiring us to pay for it. It’s the out-of-control immigration reform that they will not address in Washington, D.C.
“Obviously, the federal government has legitimate roles in defending our country and in helping in times of emergency. So that’s obviously apples and oranges.”
Ramsey is not the only candidate who has been critical of the federal government in the campaign while insisting at the same time the state deserves federal aid after historic floods resulted in at least 42 counties being declared eligible for federal relief.
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga, gubernatorial candidate, expressed in a forum this week at Lipscomb University that Tennessee deserves special consideration from the federal government for the devastation. Wamp likened Tennessee’s experience to the extraordinary circumstance that faced victims of Katrina and storms in that region. Yet Wamp has been one of the most vocal candidates in the campaign about state sovereignty rights, insisting that the federal government has overstepped its bounds in the face of the Tenth Amendment.
“The two are not mutually exclusive,” Wamp said Friday.
He said federal stimulus money came with the directive that states had to change unemployment compensation laws in order to receive funds and the health care mandate that will expand TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid, was passed without adequate funding for it.
“These are unsustainable mandates from the federal government,” Wamp said. “Does that mean there should not be a federal government? No. Does that mean there are not functions of the federal government that Tennessee needs? No.
“It is not inconsistent to say taxpayers have paid in and FEMA has an obligation.
“We actually helped citizens after Katrina above and beyond because it was such an extraordinary event. The Congress stepped in to say storm surge and flooding were classified as two different things. In this case, we have an extraordinary situation that in a 1,000-year event many people were flooded that were outside of the flood plain, so they had no reason to have flood insurance. That’s an extraordinary event. Is the federal government there for things like this? The answer is yes.”
Many candidates in other races, primarily in the Republican field, have stressed anti-Washington themes, frequently asserting Tenth Amendment rights on state sovereignty.
But efforts in Washington do spell help for the state. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander this week helped gain emergency funding in the Senate Appropriations Committee, calling it an important step to help Tennesseeans who were hurt by the flood. Tennessee’s congressional delegation, including Wamp, called for President Obama to seek funds in the appropriations bill that would help Tennessee.
Middle and West Tennessee are still recovering from the floods that killed at least 23 people. While President Obama did not visit flood sites, some members of his Cabinet, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, came to the state.
Ramsey was also asked if he believed federal recovery help had been handled well.
“I don’t ever want to complain about that,” Ramsey said. “Because here’s the deal. We’re the Volunteer State. We don’t need any help from anybody else. We can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps when we need to do that.
“The outpouring of the people of the state has been unbelievable.”
Ramsey noted his three daughters, on their own, organized a drive in East Tennessee for flood relief and brought a tractor trailer load of supplies.
“That’s one of a dozen stories,” Ramsey said. “Do we need FEMA to be here when the time comes? Yes. But right now we’re not complaining. We’re not acting like New Orleans and blaming everything on somebody else. We’re taking responsibility and working ourselves.”