Why Don’t Politicians Want to Pay for Disaster Relief?

Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Bogger


It is a big deal when you read that New York City is shutting down their transit system and ordering evacuations due to the impending hurricane that is making its way up the Eastern coast.  It also concerned me because my daughter is now in NYC and is unable to get out before Monday.  I can only imagine the devastation that will occur all the way from the Carolinas up to the Northeast due to Hurricane Irene.   When you read the stories and see the pictures of the havoc and sometimes death that is the result of these kind of natural disasters, it is hard to understand why some politicians are clamoring that the government should not pay for relief unless there are corresponding spending cuts!  Congressman and Republican candidate for the Presidential nomination, Dr. Ron Paul goes even further and states that the government should not respond at all to these disasters.

“Taking his anti-government ideology to its logical extreme, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) told NBC News’ Jo Ling Kent today that there should be no national response to Hurricane Irene, and that government responses should revert back to how they were over 100 years ago. “We should be like 1900, we should be like 1940 1950 1960,” he said. “I live on the gulf coast, we deal with hurricanes all the time.” Of course, the Gulf Coast sometimes deals with them less well thanks to a botched national response. Paul, who has called for abolishing FEMA, dismissed the organization because it is “a great contribution to deficit financing.”   Think Progress   Rep. Paul wants the United States of America to go back to the turn of the 20th Century when it comes to disaster relief.  Maybe he would prefer we go back to the year 1900 in our scientific knowledge or our technological advances too?

Rep. Paul’s fellow Congressman, Rep. Eric Cantor would only agree to government aid if the aid was followed by spending cuts of equal amounts!  “Cantor raised some eyebrows on Wednesday when, in the aftermath of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled the East Coast and originated in his district, he said Congress will help those hurt by the earthquake but will require finding offsets for any federal aid.  “When there’s a disaster there’s an appropriate federal role and we will find the monies,” Cantor said during a news conference in Mineral, Va. “But we’ve had discussions about these things before and those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere in order to meet the priority of the federal government’s role in a situation like this.”  Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring on Friday declined to say where Republicans would look to make cuts to pay for a potential storm aid package.”  Huffington Post  Let me make a guess that Rep. Cantor is not thinking of raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for disaster relief!

As the linked Huffington Post article suggests, not all of Rep. Paul’s and Rep. Cantor’s fellow Republicans agree with the “no government” response or tying aid to spending cuts.  “As East Coasters brace for what some say will be a historic pummel by Hurricane Irene, at least one lawmaker is fuming over a requirement by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that any potential emergency disaster aid be offset by spending cuts.  “It is sinful to require us to cut somewhere … in order to provide emergency disaster assistance for American citizens,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) told The Huffington Post on Friday.  The Louisiana Democrat pointed out that this weekend is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated his district and cost the federal government more than $100 billion. That recovery effort would have been delayed “by years” if Congress had required the same kind of spending cuts to offset aid, he said.”

I want to make it clear that the gentlemen who have come out against any government response at all or for paying for that response with spending cuts elsewhere are not wild-eyed radical terrorists, but leaders of their Party.   If I read these quotes correctly, Rep. Paul is telling current and future victims of any large multi-state disaster that you are on your own if Hurricane Irene destroys your town and home.   Rep. Cantor seems to be telling victims that they may get help, but only if Congress can agree on additional spending cuts to offset the wild spending spree that disaster relief is alleged to be.  Dr. Paul is on record of being a Christian and that the United States is a Christian country, but he does not think the Christian nation should help those in need after a natural and multi-state disaster.  Lew Rockwell.com  What would Jesus think?

With all of this self–reliance being demanded by Ron Paul and Eric Cantor and others, and the claim that we are a Judeo-Christian nation, you would think that disaster relief would be a high priority.  Why is it that politicians on both sides of the aisle preach self-reliance and Judeo-Christian values when it comes to Main Street, but Wall Street conglomerates and Big Oil and the extremely wealthy need and deserve Billions in tax give aways?  I have never been good at math, but something doesn’t add up here.

Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty-Guest Blogger

44 thoughts on “Why Don’t Politicians Want to Pay for Disaster Relief?”

  1. kay:

    zoning laws are a little different than telling a person they cannot build a house in a flood zone which is zoned for residential construction.

    The Mississippi river can flood a huge number of acres, are you going to take all that land out of production?

  2. Ron Paul’s statements on abortion indicate that he is without a doubt a theocrat.

  3. Again, this entry misrepresents Paul’s positions, perhaps deliberately so.

    The mocking question “What would Jesus think?” assumes that self-proclaimed Christians must promote theocratic government rule in order to remain true to their stated values. I’m not sure how you arrive at that.

  4. puzzling,

    If you think a state alone – with its infrastructure damaged by the disaster as much as that of citizens – can handle natural disasters of scale like a hurricane can deliver without outside assistance, then you are sorrily mistaken. So is Ron Paul. Part of the mission of the Federal government is to provide for the general welfare and common defense of the citizens in member states according to the Constitution. Whether the death and destruction comes at the hand of enemies or the forces of nature is immaterial. It’s not a matter of creating dependence in a natural disaster. It’s a matter of necessity, Constitutional function and ethics.

  5. Rafflaw, you wrote:

    Rep. Paul is telling current and future victims of any large multi-state disaster that you are on your own if Hurricane Irene destroys your town and home.

    As the linked Huffington Post article suggests, not all of Rep. Paul’s and Rep. Cantor’s fellow Republicans agree with the “no government” response or tying aid to spending cuts.

    I want to make it clear that the gentlemen who have come out against any government response at all or for paying for that response with spending cuts elsewhere are not wild-eyed radical terrorists, but leaders of their Party.

    This misrepresents Paul’s position because Paul said that there should be no federal response. Like his position on the federal drug war, Paul prefers that funding and decisions be pushed down to local governments. On disaster relief Paul said in the interview:

    “A state can decide. We don’t need somebody in Washington.”

    Paul further argues that if FEMA must exist he would favor spending up to $1B through the federal government for disaster compensation, something I myself would oppose:

    “I propose that we could save a billion dollars from the overseas war mongering, bring half that home, put it against the deficit, and yes, tide people over until we come to our senses.”

    Ron Paul to Obama: Use war chest to fund FEMA for Irene victims

  6. Roco

    Our entire country was shaped by zoning, which restricts building by private and public entities. There is a great resource called The Law of the Land Blog which includes state and federal court opinions related to land use.

  7. puzzling,
    With all due respect, Mr. Paul’s positions were not misrepresented and I called all politicians into question for their non Judeo-Christian attitude against victims of disasters if they state that we should not help victims.

    Rep. Paul calls for a return to the 1900 situation when the government did not assist any disaster victims. Where does he state that some victims can be helped when he wants to return to the turn of the 20th century government policy of no Federal assistance?

    Finally, multi-state disasters like Katrina, and the tornado breakout over 7 states impact properties throughout the region. Even those not in flood plains. Thank you for speaking your mind.

  8. kay:

    the government should not restrict building by private entities, they should just not subsidize losses.

  9. puzzling:

    you have some good points. Why should we subsidize the rich or even the middle class retiree who buys a house in a bad flood area. If they do that they should pay the consequences.

  10. In the mid 70’s when I was studying urban and regional planning at MIT, they went on and on about how private property owners should bear the risk of building on the coast line and coast line building should be discouraged; that there should be parks and nature reserves along the Mississippi and the coasts. Since then the amount of coast line construction has probably more than doubled.

  11. Paul is saying that our current federal disaster policy 1) creates broad dependency on government, and 2) promotes risk-taking by property owners, increasing the economic costs of natural disasters.

    Buying private insurance for homes in low-lying flood zones or on the edge of beaches is quite expensive if you can find it at all. If people can’t afford it then they shouldn’t be living or building there. Government should not subsidize and promote this risk-taking. If homeowners are rich enough not to have a mortgage and the requisite insurance requirements, those individuals can have at it as long as taxpayers don’t have to bail them out when homes get washed away.

    While Paul has called for an end to federal disaster assistance through FEMA, he has not stated that all government assistance should be eliminated. This blog entry deliberately misstates Paul’s position twice and then concludes by calling his Christianity into question.

    It is amazing to me that Jonathan Turley would allow such a posting about a client and supporter. I question this judgment.

  12. Rafflaw.

    Read what Greg Palast has to say in this article. It is clear that politicians only object to disaster relief for poor people, they have no hesitation to spend government money when it comes to rebuilding the hurricane destroyed mansions of the wealthy in the Hamptons.

  13. So maybe Cantor and Paul can do the new investigations into all the CIA secret prisons around the world and just disappear… Sure would save us a lot of time and mumbling…

  14. Dredd,

    I will say at first…I was like what…But that is one hell of a salient point…on all aspects….

  15. Because in New Orleans disasters take out more democrats than republicans, hence god is doing it.

    Why fight god?

  16. Contrary to his pronouncement’s you can bet if disaster relief is needed and granted for Virginia Rep Cantor is going to find a way to get a piece of it no matter what he says. He didn’t hesitate to take ‘re-cycled’ TARP money:

    A NEWSWEEK review of recent filings with the Federal Election Commission found that the political action committees of five big TARP recipients doled out $85,300 to members in the first two months of this year—with most of the cash going to those who serves on committees who oversee the TARP program. Among them: Bank of America (which got $15 billion in bailout money) sent out $24,500 in the first two months of 2009, including $1,500 to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and another $15,000 to members of the House and Senate banking panels. Citigroup ($25 billion) dished out $29,620, including $2,500 to House GOP Whip Eric Cantor, who also got $10,000 from UBS which, while not a TARP recipient, got $5 billion in bailout funds as an AIG “counterparty.” “This certainly appears to be a case of TARP funds being recycled into campaign contributions,” says Brett Kappel, a D.C. lawyer who tracks donations. (A spokesman for Cantor did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Hoyer said it’s his “policy to accept legal contributions.”)


    Frankly, well said. No one was at the helm when it came to a government response to Katrina. The State Dept received offers of aid from 96 other countries. Perhaps the offers could have been handled better if Ms. Rice had spent more time in the office and less time in NYC shopping for shoes.

    From Wikipedia:
    “According to the European Commission, one week after the disaster, on September 4, 2005, the United States officially asked the European Union for emergency help, asking for blankets, emergency medical kits, water and 500,000 food rations for victims. Help proposed by EU member states was coordinated through their crisis center. The British presidency of the EU functioned as contact with the USA.

    Other countries not on this list also offered aid, but the State Department mentioned that they (the State Department) had not been asked. Later, the US State Department said all offers were being examined. …

    Actual funds used

    An article in the April 29, 2007 Washington Post claimed that of the $854 million offered by foreign countries, whom the article dubs “allies,” to the US Government, only $40 million of the funds had been spent “for disaster victims or reconstruction” as of the date of publication (less than 5%).[55]

    Additionally, a large portion of the $854 million in aid offered went uncollected, including over $400 million in oil (almost 50%).”

  17. I wonder how they can come up with hundreds of billions of dollars practically overnight to bail out big banks & corporations, but heaven forbid American citizens need a little help after a natural disaster… Pathetic.

  18. raff, I will not answer that. lol Some of his supporters get pretty angry.

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