The right has made a religion out of bashing the federal government’s ability to help ordinary people and make America prosperous. But the oncoming “Frankenstorm” Hurricane Sandyshows that the ability for the government to have the funding it needs to tackle challenges like a major natural disaster is crucial.
Americans who live in the northeast of all political stripes are bracing for the storm’s impact, but it was one political party in particular who decided to repeatedly threaten the government’s ability to respond to hurricanes.
In March 2011, the House Republicans passed a continuing resolution that included a cut of $450.3 million to the NOAA as compared to President Obama’s requested budget. It also cut the National Weather Service by $126 million and reduced “funding for FEMA management by $24.3 million off of the FY2010 budget, and [reduced] that appropriation by $783.3 million for FEMA state and local programs.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also famously threatened to delay disaster relief for Hurricane Irene until certain budget cuts were put in place.
The budget pressure resulting from wrangling over funding for FEMA has taken a real toll on the agency. Last August, FEMA cut back on tornado assistance to Alabama, for instance, which was hit by a spree of killer storms the previous April.
On “state and local levels, these are devastating, to-the-bone cuts that erode the basic capacity of communities to fulfill their basic responsibilities when disaster strikes,” wrote Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in response to the cuts that disaster detection, preparedness, and recovery have faced over the past few years.
Demonizing the government’s ability to assist ordinary Americans has become a sport for the Republican Party in recent years. But as Americans on the east coast scramble to take shelter from Sandy, they should all remember that the government’s ability to respond to these sort of disasters should never be undermined by ideologues and extremists like those in the Republican Party.
Also, contribute a few bucks to our Hurricane Preparedness Fund so that we can pay for generators to power our election headquarters. With your backing, we can continue to call voters on behalf of great progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson.