“Good job, Brownie!”
The Storm, Again
Editorial | NYTimes | 28 Aug 12
Tropical Storm (Hurricane?) Isaac is more than just a logistical inconvenience for Republicans gathered in Tampa: it is a powerful reminder both of Republican incompetence in handling Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, and the party’s no-less-disastrous plans to further cut emergency-related spending.
That is not something you will hear Paul Ryan talk about this week at the convention, nor any of the other lawmakers who make simplistic promises about the power of slashing government spending. But the budgets assembled by Mr. Ryan and warmly embraced by Mitt Romney severely cut spending for emergency preparedness, exactly the kind of money needed in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and scores of other states for this and future storms.
This article continues after the break…
Between 2010 and 2012, House Republicans forced a reduction of 43 percent in the primary grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that pay for disaster preparedness. That is $1.8 billion that will not be available for evacuation equipment and supplies, communications gear that lets first responders speak to one another, and training exercises. (House Republicans tried to cut $354 million more in this year’s homeland security spending bill, but Democrats restored the money in a conference with the Senate.)
That spending was enormously useful during last year’s tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Although the effects of the cuts will not be felt yet as gulf states deal with this week’s storm, they will leave the region less prepared for future hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.
The New Orleans area, in particular, will rely this week on $14 billion in levee construction, pumps and other flood control structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers since Katrina. But the corps’s construction budget has been cut by 21 percent since 2009 because of Republican pressure, hitting flood prevention especially hard.
Even FEMA’s most important activity, its response to disasters, has been held hostage by the demands of Tea Party Republicans in the House — including Mr. Ryan — for smaller government. Last year, when it looked as if FEMA might exceed its budget after a spate of disasters, House Republicans demanded that any further spending be offset by cuts in other programs they disliked.
Squeezing one program to pay for another has become a familiar Tea Party technique, but it is particularly reprehensible when emergency response is at stake. Eventually, after Democrats refused to go along, Republicans backed off.
One of the themes of the Tampa convention will be the failure of government, and the prosperity that will result if it is cut to ribbons. But in a different corner of the television screen, the winds of Isaac are a reminder of the necessity of government — its labor, its expertise, its money — in the nation’s most dire moments. It is hard to forget what happened to New Orleans when that Republican philosophy was followed in 2005, and it will be harder still to explain how it might be allowed to happen again.
This article appears at NYTimes.com »
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