This past Sunday, talking heads were giving their opinion of how bad Hurricane Irene actual was. Most felt and expressed that the preparation was over stated. Conservative columnist George Will asserted that Obama was using it as a press opportunity and to paraphrase him said it was all “much to do about nothing.” Seems the ultra-wealthy in American media who have a Koch Brothers slant to their political thesis consider the havoc consequential of Irene as not worthy of the preparation and attention it received. What they failed to highlight was the dire predicament the nation has been put in – to deal with any unforeseen conundrum, natural disasters included, by mandating budget cuts regardless of what happens to the nation. For it is beyond irresponsible to outline cost for budgetary items that are not scripted and can occur without prior knowledge or warning.
The aftermath of Irene thus far has resulted in the deaths of at least 42 people in 12 states and this number does not include the deaths in Haiti or Puerto Rico. All Amtrak service was suspended between Boston to Philadelphia at a cost of millions of dollars not to mention the nearly 10 million Americans who have had to deal with, and some still do, surviving without electrical service. It will take weeks before we can actually determine the extent and cost of damage to farmers who grow everything from blueberries and corn to Tobacco.
Tens of thousands of Americans in towns and hamlets in the region are cut off from the civilized world as well as from sources of food and clean water. States including Vermont, North Carolina, New Jersey and New York among others are suffering the wrath of flooding with the worse yet to come. Yes, some states from Maine to Virginia have experienced the worst flooding in decades. Still, Republicans play politics and consider Irene’s outcome equal to small apples. I guess one losing their home or business is a small blip in the big picture. The most irritating request from Republican leadership in Congress is that there will have to be spending cuts in other needed programs for congress to do their job and deal with the problem. Seems as if they were unable to perceive that a natural disaster could occur and worse, that if needed any fiscal support, that it should have been foreseen and placed in the budget as a specific line item.
Through the GOP congress policy, FEMA will have to put other natural disasters including what happened in Joplin, Missouri and the Tornado’s across the South on hold from additional funding. Republicans would prefer to adjust the budget to cover cost, something that has never been done before, as opposed to add debt to provide funding to devastated communities hit hard by Irene or any future natural disaster for that matter.
Irene will likely end up being one of the ten most expensive catastrophes in the nation’s history. Disaster relief historically has been seen by all as a major responsibility of the federal government and since 1989 congress has approved 33 emergency appropriations without offsetting cuts to other programs.
The Tea Party got their way in 2010, but if they do not get disaster relief, it may be an example of the chicken comings home to roost via their extreme and reckless mandate for spending to be offset by budget cuts. – torrance stephens ph.d