Commentary

Relief for me, but none for thee


Tragically, the famous movie line “Houston, we have a problem” needs to be changed to “Houston: We have a problem.” We haven’t even begun to assess the ultimate cost of Hurricane Harvey, and our hearts go out to its many victims. But on the plus side, if the history of the two senators representing the State of Texas is any indication, there will be no need for any expenditure of federal funds on disaster relief. They certainly didn’t think it was necessary for 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

Luckily for Texans, Democrats do not think the same way and are not entirely without empathy. They do not possess Grinch-like hearts two sizes too small, nor do they possess Scrooge-like disgust at any expenditure aimed at the safety and comfort of average citizens.

You know what? It makes me proud to be a Democrat. We at the Beacon fully expect that Democrats will offer full-throated support for Harvey relief.

And guess what? Those two free-spending bleeding hearts in Texas—Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—began clamoring for relief before Harvey even made landfall. This, despite the fact that neither could find his way to provide aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Cruz said it’s not that he was against disaster relief. He claimed he was against the Sandy relief bill because it was 70% unrelated pork. That remark earned Cruz three Pinocchio’s from The Washington Post Fact-checker.

Meanwhile, Cornyn’s staff said he supported relief, just not as provided in the final January 2013 bill. Call me crazy, but a vote against counts as a vote against.

Here’s what Cruz recently told CNN about the Sandy bill, according to reporting in The Hill: “It was simply local members of Congress spending on their pet projects, and two-thirds of what was spent in that bill had little or nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy.”

Yeah, right, Mr. Cruz, you’re on to us. That’s how we got funding for the Bay Drive multi-use path in Kill Devil Hills!

As far as I’m concerned, the Post actually bent over backwards to cut Cruz some slack. It let his staff claim that he misspoke and that he didn’t mean his seemingly unambiguous pet-projects remark. Relying on statements Cruz never made or even hinted at, his staff said he opposed the Sandy spending because it was projected to take place over a number of years, rather than go straight to immediate relief measures. Even if you allow Cruz’s staff to get away with that rationale, it’s idiotic. But more on that in just a moment.

First, we must say that this twist in the meaning of Cruz’s remarks would reduce the sturdiest pretzel ever baked to smithereens. Perhaps the Post should give itself a few Pinocchio’s for malfeasance in allowing Cruz’s staff to get away with its claims.

But the Post did provide actual facts. It broke down the Sandy bill, pointing out that virtually all the spending went to Sandy, with relatively small percentages of the total funds going to other declared disasters and to such measures as improving weather-prediction capabilities.

As for the timeline, it’s true. Some of the spending was for immediate clean-up, while more was earmarked for rebuilding. And, as any OBXer knows, rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight. Our friends on Hatteras are still laboring to recover from last year’s visit from Matthew.

The Post mentioned a few other things related to Sandy and the Republicans. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), then the Budget Committee Chair, described unrelated spending as an issue, citing, among other things, funds related to NASA and Washington DC.

Uh, Mr. Ryan. Sandy didn’t just descend on New Jersey and New York from the heavens above. It passed through quite a few jurisdictions. Along the way, it damaged the NASA facility on Virginia’s Wallops Island and the roofs of several Smithsonian buildings. No pork, Mr. Ryan, and yes, related to Sandy, Mr. Ryan.

According to the Post’s article, an alternative relief bill was presented in the House. It would have tied relief to an across-the-board decrease in discretionary spending. As such, the bill’s cost would have fallen on Meals on Wheels, Elmo, education, clean-water programs, highway maintenance, and more. Nice.

Unfortunately, Cruz’s carrying-on is just business as usual for some Republicans. Take former Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), who has represented citizens not too far to the northwest of OBX. Cantor happily welcomed no-strings-attached relief funding after his district took a hit from Hurricane Gaston in 2004. But when Hurricane Irene did its devastating coastal dance in 2011, Cantor wouldn’t provide so much as a penny in relief unless it was offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.

So there you have it. Republicans cravenly favor disaster relief if, and only if, it directly benefits their own districts or states—or if it’s tied to a pet goal like defunding projects they hate.

Luckily for Americans everywhere, the hearts of Democrats are, for the most part, sized just right. They are the people who willingly pitch in and do whatever it takes to recover from a disaster—no matter where it hits, and that emphatically includes Houston, Texas.

So hang in there, Texas! We’ll do whatever you need to get you back on your feet. And if you think of it, maybe you should grant Cruz and Cornyn the opportunity to apply for the unemployment benefits they so richly deserve…and probably detest just as much as they did Hurricane Sandy relief.