Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Playing Politics With Disaster Relief

Politico Arena Topic: Should disaster aid be conditional?

It is an accepted norm that the Federal Government aid state and local government when a major calamity occurs as those incidents overwhelm their capacity to respond in the short term and recover in the long term. That is the purpose of the Disaster Relief Fund and the intent of the Stafford Acts. There are years such as 2011, the most devastating tornado season in the U.S. in a lifetime, when the number and costs of disasters depletes that fund.

It is outrageous that members of the United States Congress are playing politics with communities and people directly affected by these devastating events. As was the case with the debt ceiling, many Republicans are willing to hold communities hostage in an effort to shrink the size of government. Where were these budget-balancing Republicans when a Republican president and Republican-led Congress, blessed with a balanced-budget after the Clinton years, passed Medicare Part D without paying for it? What about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were similarly not paid for? How about the massive tax cut that benefited mainly the wealthy that has added to the country’s debt? I’ll tell you where they were: on the floor of the Congress voting for these massive government programs without any offsetting spending cuts.

Real citizens and communities are hurting from Hurricane Irene as people in Joplin, Missouri continue to wait for Federal assistance to help recover from one the deadliest and costliest tornados in American history. Americans expect the Federal Government to act in these situations and if the GOP continues to be an obstacle, there will be electoral consequences down the road.

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