Another natural disaster and another opportunity for the Republicans in Congress to be dicks about approving federal disaster aid. It happened with the tornado in Joplin Missouri and the recent Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. Republicans say that any disaster aid has to be offset by spending cuts. Not only is the demand hurtful to those who depend on the target of the cuts, the social safety net, but the GOP demand is stupidly irrational. Federal disaster aid comes back as increased tax revenue from spending by restored businesses and residential restoration work.
We’ve had several major natural disasters in the past few years like the tornado that hit Joplin Missouri in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy that hit the east coast in October. Each time Federal disaster relief funds were requested in Congress and each time some Republicans said they would only approve the relief aid if the money was offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
[House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor, who served as chief deputy whip when Blunt was the House majority whip, said on Monday that any aid to the state would likely be offset with other budget cuts.
“Not having all the details and information that has filtered in from the latest disaster, I can tell you, if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental,” Cantor told reporters at a weekly press conference.
Blunt avoided criticizing his old ally in a statement provided to POLITICO Tuesday afternoon. But he made clear that he believes Congress should act to help his state and that Cantor should help find the money if he’s insisting on offsetting budget cuts.
Even someone like Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), whose district was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 wants relief fund offsets:
Highlighting the representative’s desire for a bill with spending offsets, Chambers said Palazzo hopes the debate over aid to those affected by Sandy will spark a “national discussion on disaster relief reform.”
“Congressman Palazzo fully supports a Sandy relief package that includes spending offsets. On the heels of a fiscal cliff deal that added $4 trillion to our existing $16 trillion national debt, we must ensure that disaster relief is paid for. He also hopes we will be able to have a much-needed national discussion on disaster relief reform in the coming days.”
And usually the offsets Republicans demand come not from boated parts of the budget like defense or corporate welfare but they want it to come from the social safety net:
But instead of acting quickly to approve the funds, congressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, took a principled stand against disaster funding, saying it was more important to prevent the deficit from growing than to supply the needed money. They insisted on offsetting cuts for new aid, most of which would have come from discretionary social welfare programs, like food stamps. Even as he was touring earthquake damage in his own district, Cantor refused to budge. “All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have,” he said while inspecting damaged buildings.
“It’s just like any family would operate when it’s struck by disaster. It finds the money it needs to to care of a sick loved one or what have you and then goes without trying to buy a new care or put an addition on its new house,” Cantor told Fox News. Of course, a new car of home addition is a luxury. Replacing a home destroyed by a hurricane is not.
On the first level, the Republican response is contrary to basic humanity. If your neighbor needs help you rush to help, you don’t worry about the cost first and you don’t give them a bill later for your effort. What if all we had to depend on was our neighbors and his house is the only one left after a bad storm? He can’t help everyone. Someone has to help and for disasters it is easier for the Federal government to help because they have the funds and resources to respond quickly.
The response to the need for federal relief funds by Republicans, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is also stupid because money spent for disaster relief, just like money spent on unemployment or food stamps, comes back to the government through the revenue generated from that spending:
This story appeared after Hurricane Irene, but it still applies:
When it comes to the larger economy, Irene could provide a hefty stimulus. Analysts are already predicting a big jump in construction and home-furnishings spending as beleaguered homeowners rush to repair and replace property that was destroyed in the storm. Economist Peter Morici estimates that this short-term consumer spending boost will total roughly $20 billion, and suggests that it may have some long-term positive effects. To begin with, he predicts a multiplier effect of about $16 billion as post-disaster spending works its way through the economy. What’s more, as business owners replace destroyed property, Morici estimates that there may be a long-term economic improvement of more than $10 billion.
Other analysts agree; David Kotok, chairman of money management firm Cumberland Advisors, notes that his company is now predicting that fourth-quarter GDP growth may go as high as 3%, fueled by “Billions [that] will be spent on rebuilding and recovery.”
Unfortunately, much of this growth will be dependent upon the political climate. Cumberland assumes that, among other things, “Washington may set aside the usual destructive and divisive partisan political wrangling and act in the interest of the nation.” If this is the case, Kotok emphasizes, federal financial assistance will rush to troubled areas, quickly stimulating rebuilding efforts.
The goal is to get local businesses going again, infrastructure repaired, and people back into homes as quickly as possible. The longer those items are left to fester looking for private donations or donated time will allow them be more of a drag on the government and the economy.
The reason some Republicans seem so heartless is because they believe ANY government help makes the person dependent for more help. I can tell you from experience that no one likes to get government help – except maybe the oil companies, auto companies, and banks. After every disaster, the media does stories on people who had a rough time getting the help they needed. Almost to a person they say they want to get out of the assistance cycle as soon as they can and most of them do. There are tons of rules and regulations that people who get assistance are subject to because lawmakers, like the Republicans, keep wanting to punish people for situations beyond their control like Tornados or a crashed economy.
Why do Republicans make it so hard to vote for them?