Thursday, May 30, 2013

The 7-Step Guide to Our Idiotic Disaster-Relief Politics

"We've got your back." ||| Whitehouse.gov
The 7-Step Guide to Our Idiotic Disaster-Relief Politics:
By now you should recognize the
formula:
1) Natural disaster (tornado, hurricane,
flood
, earthquake, fire,

snowstorm
,
heavy rainstorm
, volcano)
kills multiple people.
2)
President
(Obama,

Bush II
,
Clinton
,
Bush I
) vows to survivors that the federal government will
"be
with you every step of the way
" in the rebuilding
process.
3) One or two fiscal conservatives (Sen. Tom
Coburn
[R-Oklahoma], Rep. Eric
Cantor
[R-Virginia], Sen. Rand
Paul
[R-Kentucky]) will suggest that a federal
blank check
isn't the best way to respond to local disasters;

point out
that annual federal emergency-declarations have grown
exponentially
from 28 during the Reagan presidency to 44 under Bush I to 90 under
Clinton to 130 under Bush II and 153 under Obama; complain that
disaster bills get
laden with unseemly pork
; observe that disaster relief
inevitably transfers money from low-risk states (like
Michigan
) to high-risk states (like Florida),
and as a result of all this propose spending cuts to offset the cost of
the federal bailout.
"Whatever it takes." |||4) They will be treated as
hideous idelogues
by both the
press
and office-holding
Republicans
in the affected area.
5) The blank
check
will arive.
6) After a respectful interval, rebuilding
locals will complain
that the federal money comes with bureaucratic strings and a
general outsidery
cluelessness
.
7) Natural disaster kills multiple
people....
A critical element in this dreary and sometimes deadly
farce is the attempt by free-spending pragmatists to assert that
the only "ideology" on display here is that of people who dispute
the virtue of the blank check. Here's the Washington
Post'
s
E.J. Dionne
, for example:
"All of us are in this for the long haul." ||| Government Printing OfficeAlthough we resolved the
slavery debate, our nation seems in many ways to be regressing back
to the politics of that era. Disaster relief is not a slam dunk
anymore because an issue of basic decency has become entangled with
a renewed assault on federal power and a belief that cutting the
budget is the nation's single highest priority.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) is so philosophically consistent
that his office let it be known that he believed even assistance to
those suffering in his home state should be offset by budget cuts.
He later said he would not get in the way of relief, but it's
astonishing that emergency spending on behalf of innocent people
would be used as a vehicle for more austerity. [...]
May the people of Oklahoma get the help they need. Rigid
ideology is no substitute for generosity of spirit.
Related reading from me: "The
Simpletons
: David Brooks, Thomas L. Friedman, and the banal
authoritarianism of do-something punditry," and "No
Labels, and the Ideology of Non-Ideology
." And to quickly
fact-check E.J. Dionne's claim that "disaster relief is not a slam
dunk anymore," check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency's

last 60 disaster declarations
.
Reason has a robust archive on disaster-response public
policy; click here
to get started.