This is the argument for a government agency like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), which is simple: there are certain disasters - hurricanes in particular - that go beyond the scale that any privatized agency can reach. Yes, libertarians, there are emergencies too big for state agencies and private corporations to handle.
Sandy is a perfect example: this is a storm that hit states from North Carolina up to Connecticut. Meaning the hurricane affected Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and especially the hardest hit New Jersey and New York. Even land-locked West Virginia was hit by blizzards caused by the hurricane. Can you imagine all of those states struggling for resources at the same time, with such problems as drinkable water and crashed nationwide power grids affecting them all at once? And who would coordinate, make the decisions, organize all those states to work together? This is where the Federal government with its larger-scope powers and deeper pockets can come in real handy. And which is why a lot of the governors of the hardest-hit states are singing FEMA's praises right now.
And with regards to privatization: will there be just one corporation making deals with all those states, or will there be a competitive market with rival companies offering different services? Can you imagine rival companies working together, or coordinating their systems to be in sync to work in unison during a disaster? And given how corporations avoid liability and responsibility for upper management, who will dare take the lead on emergency responses that could make things worse? With a public agency, there is at least a chain of command that HAS to work, that HAS to coordinate, and that HAS a level of accountability that would ensure that agency works as effectively as possible.
EDIT: Sullivan linked to a wonderful article from someone who works in the insurance business, and who presents in better terms why privatizing disaster aid - pretty much relying on insurance companies to pay for it all under Risk Management - wouldn't work in the real world.
Other examples of privatizing public agency services - such as making prisons corporate-run, the efforts of the Iraqi occupation to have companies handle services that civil engineers and the military could have better performed - make me wary of any privatization effort of services that affect our lives and well-being. Above all, privatization brings with it billing woes and waste, abuses of authority, lack of oversight, and eventually even higher costs to repair any of the damages done.
And so why does this make a Romney Presidency a disaster in the making?
Because Romney will KILL FEMA.
As recent as his primary debates, Romney made it clear his belief that disaster responses could be best handled by the states (uh, WRONG) and perhaps even privatized by corporations (ah, let's give the corporations even MORE of our money).
As mentioned before about Romney's campaign, his one constant has been his massive tax cut. A massive tax cut that he's going to have to justify by slashing every federal funding program (other than the Defense budget, which no Republican dare threaten. If you think Social Security or Medicare are also safe, just remember that the current GOP wants to kill off every last remnant of the Great Society AND the New Deal...) in order to get anywhere close to balancing any budget (which STILL won't happen because all tax cuts do is create more deficits). If Romney wins the Presidency, he is going to want his massive tax cut. He gets that tax cut, it WILL be the death-knell of every federally-funded social program on the books, cutting deep into even what the states can do. And this will kill any disaster relief - federal AND state - that we need to survive any disasters in the coming years. And hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, floods are all constant: we get them every year...
This is one very big reason - out of HUNDREDS - to NOT vote for Romney for the White House. Like it or not, the federal government exists and has powers and authorities above that of the states or any private entity. The question is who in office will best manage those federal resources to ensure that our government works FOR us. The question is who in office will take those duties seriously and not pass them off to underlings unqualified to do anything more than manage horse shows (having disgraced ex-FEMA director Michael Brown come out and accuse Obama and his FEMA team responded too QUICKLY is beyond a joke, it's an insult to every victim of Hurricane Katrina). The question to all of us voting this election cycle is who do we trust to run our government when disaster strikes and who has the experience, focus, and skill to handle those disasters.
Romney is NOT the answer to that question. Not ever.
For the LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT VOTE FOR MITT ROMNEY.