Friday, August 26, 2011

The Politics Of Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene is barreling toward the eastern seaboard.  The weather gurus expect the storm to make landfall within the next the next 24 hours.  Irene is expected to move up the east coast causing billions in damages from North Carolina to New England.  The storm comes on the heels of a 5.8 earthquake which rattled this same area just a few days earlier.
While our thoughts and prayers are with those who stand in Irene’s path we could not help but be struck by the politics playing out as the storm approaches.
Seven Governors have declared states of emergency.  Once the storm has passed each of them will petition the federal government to assist with the aftermath.  Most notable will be Republican Governor Chris Christy of New Jersey and Republican Governor Bob McDonald of Virginia.  Christy and McDonald have been two of the most vocal advocates of massive spending cuts and small government policies.  But their aversion to all things federal won’t stop them from petitioning Washington to come to their aid.  
Earlier this week, Virginia Representative and Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke with reporters about the devastation caused by the earthquake and the anticipated damage from the oncoming storm .  The epicenter of the earthquake occurred in Cantor’s own district and the hurricane threatens Virginia's coastline.  Cantor has been a major voice in the Republican drive to slash federal spending and eliminate government agencies.  A visibly shaken (pardon the pun) Cantor addressed reporters amid the rumble and noted that there was after all “a role for government in situations like this.”
Republican Presidential candidate and current Texas Governor Rick Perry has been a long time critic of Washington.  He even threatened to secede if Washington didn’t curb its intrusive ways.  But he complained bitterly at the lack of federal assistance when his state was battling wildfires earlier this year.  And Perry’s Texas has sucked more money out of the hated Obama stimulus plan than any state save California.
It is notable that among the agencies designated for massive cuts in the eyes of Republicans are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  NOAA tracks hurricanes and assists states in their emergency planning.  FEMA heads the country’s disaster relief efforts.  Hmmmm!      
Republicans like to scream and holler about the evils of the federal government.  They want to slash and cut and reduce government to a size small enough “to drown it in the bathtub.”
Republicans hate big government…until they need it.  

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