Hurricane Dumbo: The GOP’s vision for disaster relief

| Senior Forum Editor

Hurricane Irene is over, thank God. Much of the student body is from the East Coast or has family and friends there, so knowing that the worst has passed brings a great sigh of relief to the concerned (and those who have taken in people fleeing the destruction).

Rebuilding will of course be tough; some towns in Vermont remain isolated and parts of New York City (including the subway system) are still flooded, but many people have insurance, and with federal, state and local aid, things can finally return to normal, even if FEMA’s disaster relief fund is currently less than $1 billion.

Wait, did I say federal aid? Nope, I’m sorry, that isn’t really available anymore. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other Congressional Republicans have stated that because of the country’s deficits, disaster relief spending should be offset by cuts in other programs and, in some cases, even capped.

I think most of us would agree that the United States has a deficit problem. We spend way more than we take in, and that is bad. Accepting that, we now have a political fight on our hands about how to have sustainable finances. Do we need new taxes? What exactly should we cut? What programs need to be reformed or scrapped?

These are legitimate questions and debates to have, but it amazes me that congressmen, our country’s leaders, can think that government of the people, by the people and for the people doesn’t have an obligation to help those people pick up their shattered lives when a hurricane hits. A leader has that obligation. A leader takes care of his or her citizens.

You can’t make me believe that the survivors of natural disasters such as a hurricane or a tornado (like the one that utterly destroyed Joplin, Mo., which started a similar debate over federal relief efforts) deserved their fates or are somehow responsible for what happened. And if you claim to believe that someone who has experienced a natural disaster doesn’t deserve every single bit of help, wherever it can come from, then you are not a leader.

If you can legitimately say to me that when someone’s home and livelihood are destroyed through no fault of their own we should say, “You only deserve this much help for your problems,” or, “You don’t need it right away, let’s have a protracted partisan fight over spending first,” then you are not a leader.

If you can go to New York or North Carolina or Joplin; if you can go to San Francisco after an earthquake or Memphis after a flood and look into the eyes of people who will never get back to where they were or children who may never again find a stable home and tell them that they don’t deserve every single penny that you can scrape up, then you are certainly not a leader, and you barely warrant the title of “human being” anymore.

I understand that the GOP believes in limited government and states’ rights, but sometimes the state of Missouri or the state of New York doesn’t have the capability to handle destruction on this scale.

This is what the federal government is for; this is exactly what its purpose is. This is why we have it. Because a nation of 300 million people has the capability to do what a state of 27 million cannot. There are things in this world that you spend money on, no strings attached, and you worry about the consequences later. There are times when you have to consider paying a little bit extra, because it is simply the right thing to do.

When you are voting next year, remember this. When you are considering who you want to lead the country, remember this. If you are thinking about voting more conservative because you think they will handle the economy better, remember this. Remember that if you were hit by a hurricane, if your home was destroyed, your livelihood lost and the disaster funds exhausted, the leaders of the Republican Party would say, “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps,” and leave you with nothing but the shambles of your life.

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