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Eric Cantor Is A Hypocrite On Disaster Relief Spending

Buried in this Saturday’s Washington Post Metro section was  a short piece about the request from conservative Virginia Republican Gov.  Robert McDonnell for $39 million in federal disaster relief for his state.

This was an initial request for 22 localities in Virginia  hard hit  by Hurricane Irene. According  to the article, other local governments  can request more aid and, in addition,  McDonnell also asked for Hazard  Mitigation Assistance for all Virginia  localities.

This comes from a governor who, along with his Republican  congressional counterpart Eric Cantor, rails against Washington and “government  spending.”

What makes this quite interesting is the position taken by  Cantor  last week on Federal Emergency Management funding for disasters. We have  had a record 66 natural disasters  this year and Hurricane Irene was  one of the 10 most costly ever.

Cantor, whose district was hit hard by the earthquake and  the  hurricane, has said that any spending for FEMA should be tied to cuts   elsewhere, dollar for dollar, “Just like any  family would operate when it’s struck with disaster,” says Cantor. Funny, that is not how he felt back in 2004   when he appealed for money for his district after another hurricane and  voted  against the amendment by Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas  to do require offsets.

Did Eric Cantor ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for  the wars  in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did he  ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay  for the Bush tax cuts for the  millionaires and billionaires? Did he   ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for increases to homeland  security? How about border agents?

Another very conservative congressman from Virginia, Leonard  Lance,  totally disagrees with Cantor.  Help is needed now. Gov. Chris  Christie  of New Jersey, no friend of government spending, talks as though Eric  Cantor  has lost his marbles: “Our  people are suffering now, and they  need support now. And they [Congress] can  all go down there and get  back to work and figure out budget cuts later.”

It is time for a host of protesters to go to Cantor’s district   office and call him on his absurdity. Does  he believe we should help  the victims of these disasters? Is that what government has done for  over 200  years? Does he just want to play politics and delay help? Does  he represent the  people of Virginia? Does he care about  the others  who have been the victims of tornadoes and floods across this  country?

It reminds me of a Senate debate where a certain Republican  from  Idaho was complaining about a bill that included funding for rat control   in New York City.

“In Idaho, we take care of our own rats,” to which the New  York senator replied, “In New York, we take care of our own forest fires.”

That about sums it up.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Disasters, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Governors, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle East, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Say It”: For Michele Bachmann, Ignorance Is Bliss

What a wonderful world! My daughter brought me a satellite radio for my birthday and I have been listening to the classic hits of the’50s. I call the station “50s on the Five for 50-Somethings.”  Unfortunately every time I hear the classic 1950s song “What a Wonderful  World” by the great Sam Cooke, I think of Michele Bachmann. Why? Because of the  opening words, “Don’t’ know much about history. Don’t know much biology.”

Earlier this year, Bachmann said that the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which started the Revolutionary War, were fought in New Hampshire when every school kid knows the battles were fought in Massachusetts.  Any day, I expect her to say that Kaiser Willy should  have been tried for war crimes for starting World War II.

Earlier this year, the conservative congresswoman described homosexuality as “sexual dysfunction.” She may be surprised to know  that the American Medical Association  doesn’t list homosexuality as a  sexual dysfunction. Representative Bachmann has  promised to release her  healthcare  proposal to the public shortly. Her husband  tries to convince gays that they are straight and my guess is her solution to  the healthcare crisis will be to convince the sick and injured that they’re felling just fine.

I would add meteorology to biology and history on the list  of things  she doesn’t know much about. She said that hurricane Irene was a   warning to politicians to reduce government spending. Her spokesperson  said the  candidate made the statement “in jest”. The congresswoman has a  sick sense of  humor. I don’t think a joke about a disaster that killed  dozens of people and  caused billion of dollars in damage is very  funny. I wonder what other kinds of  disasters Representative Bachmann  thinks are funny.

The congresswoman from Minnesota is chair of the Tea Party Caucus in  the U.S. House of Representatives and her statements make her perfect   for the job. The Tea Party has a new motto, “Just Say It,” which is why a   recent New York Times/CBS News national survey  shows the group’s negative has  doubled from 18 percent to 40 percent  in the last year. The nominee of the Party of Tea, the party formerly  known as the GOP  will drown with the weight of the Tea Party brand  wrapped around him or her  like an anchor.

Ever wonder why Americans dislike the Tea Party? Wonder no  more. At a  recent presidential campaign rally last week in Iowa, Robin Murphy  of  West Des Moines, Iowa, told Representative Bachmann. “I don’t like  what I  see in Obama—him being born in Kenya and trying to cover up the  birth  certificate thing. And him being Muslim and trying to pretend  he’s a Christian.”

As she held Ms. Murphy’s hand, Representative Bachmann made no effort  to correct the misstatements that the Iowan made about the president. The Minnesotan could have responded to her supporter with a criticism of the  president for his economic policies but also reminded her that the  president  was born in Hawaii and is a Christian. But Representative Bachmann didn’t. If  ignorance is bliss, Tea Partyers must be ecstatic.

I lost electricity, Internet, and phones for a day and a half  in the aftermath of Irene. It was actually pleasant to be out of touch with the rest of the world for awhile. I knew what it was like being a member  of the Tea Party.

Robin Murphy’s statements sound sweet to Tea Partyers and religious  conservatives but they taste sour to the independent suburban voters who are sick of right wing rhetoric. As long as Congresswoman Bachmann  and her  supporters lie about the president’s background, they won’t get  any play from  the moderate swing voters who will choose the next  president in November of 2012.  I doubt Tea Partyers will change their rhetoric though because they live in a  wonderful world all their own.

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, September 1, 2011

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Disasters, Economy, Education, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A “Federal Family” Affair: Coordinated Efforts, Except At Fox News

FEMA chief Craig Fugate and National Weather Service director Jack Hayes recently wrote an op-ed about preparations for hurricane season. They noted the coordinated efforts of “the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the faith-based and non-profit communities, and the private sector.”

This wouldn’t be especially interesting, except as reader J.M. noted via email, Republican media outlets are apparently worked up about the phrase “federal family.”

Here, for example, is a Fox News report that ran on Monday:

[B]efore Irene fizzled, the Obama White House wanted to make sure that Irene was no Katrina and that, in fact, the president and his aides would be seen in compassionate command of the situation.

Hence the introduction of what may be the most condescending euphemism for the national government in its long history of condescending euphemizing: “federal family.”

This new phrase was supposed to, [Fox News’ Power Play] supposes, make anxious East Coasters feel the love of a caring federal government — tender squeeze from the Department of Homeland Security, a gentle embrace from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The phrase was a centrally distributed talking point, appearing in op-eds, press releases and statements from across the administration.

No major hurricane had hit the U.S. mainland in the Obama era, and the “federal family” had obviously been saving up a lot of new approaches to differentiate itself from the clan under President George W. Bush.

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy was also troubled by the “federal family” phrase, as was Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s site, though both appeared to be working from the assumptions of the Fox News report.

There’s just one problem: Fox News’ report is completely wrong and based on lazy assumptions, which could have been avoided if it had taken 30 seconds to check.

Fox News said the “federal family” phrase was “introduced” by the Obama administration, adding that it’s a “new phrase” intended to draw a distinction between Obama’s team and Bush’s. What Fox News didn’t bother to find out is that the Bush administration also used the “federal family” phrase, many times, as did the Clinton administration, many times. It simply refers to a group of federal agencies that work together on emergency response.

It’s not “new”; it wasn’t “introduced” by the Obama administration; it’s not part of a “condescending” liberal scheme to make Americans love the government; it has nothing to do with embarrassing the Bush administration, since the Bush team used the same rhetoric. Fox News just didn’t bother to get its facts straight before misleading its audience.

There’s a good reason those who rely on Fox News seem so confused, so often — they’re routinely lied to.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 31, 2011

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Dictators, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austerity Versus Salvation: What Price Life?

So the big, bad storm huffed and puffed and didn’t blow all the houses in.

Reversing Katrina, on the sixth anniversary of that shameful episode in American history, the response to Irene was more powerful than Irene.

And that made some solipsistic Gothamites who missed their subways and restaurants grouchy. There is no greater abuse to New Yorkers than inconvenience.

Once the storm became “Apocalypse Not,” as The New York Post called it, there were those who accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey of overreacting to make up for their infamous underreactions to last year’s Christmas blizzard, when Hizzoner was baking in Bermuda and the Guv was playing at Disney World in Florida with his family.

In a Wall Street Journal column, Bret Stephens suggested “a new edition of the Three Little Pigs, this one for the CYA age.”

Ordered to evacuate from his Manhattan home near the Hudson River, Stephens took his family to his parents’ wood-framed house in Connecticut, where a 50-foot elm crashed in the yard. So he went hard on the Chicken Little mayor. “What’s the wisdom of the ages,” Stephens asked, “when a mayor wants to erase the stain of mishandling last winter’s snowstorms by forcibly relocating people from his zone of responsibility to places that are somebody else’s zone of responsibility?”

Should those whose job it is to prepare for the worst be punished because the worst didn’t happen?

What determines your judgment of politicians’ reaction is what happens to you. Those washed out from North Carolina to New Jersey to Vermont don’t think government overreacted. As Mel Brooks once said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”

Asked at a Saturday hurricane briefing about the response in relation to the debate about the role of government, Christie made it clear that saving lives was the most important thing. The Republican said he didn’t think that Democrats and Republicans were debating this: “Protecting the safety of our citizens is one of the bedrock roles of government.”

Not so bedrock for some of the Flintstones types in Washington who are now hotly debating austerity versus salvation. The impressively hands-on performances of Christie, Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York were not enough to make Tea Partiers, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor root for big government against rampaging nature.

Paul, a libertarian whose scorn of government is so great that he doesn’t even want it to coordinate in natural disasters, insisted that FEMA, which he calls “a giant contributor to deficit financing,” should be shut down.

Though his state of Virginia was the epicenter of an earthquake before being hit by Irene, Cantor has insisted that additional money for cash-strapped FEMA must be offset by spending cuts, echoing his remarks in May that money sent to traumatized tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., would mean cuts somewhere else.

The callous comments about disaster relief in recent days by Cantor, Paul and, believe it or not, the disgraced former FEMA Chief Michael “Heck of a job, Brownie” Brown infuriated Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator touring his inundated state. He told Carl Hulse of The Times that coming together to help on disasters “is what being a nation is about.”

In a briefing at the White House Monday, FEMA Director Craig Fugate said that the lesson of Katrina is for the federal government to “get things going earlier” and not wait until an overwhelmed state “says we’re going to need help.”

Too bad that didn’t occur to W. in 2005. He met with Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Air Force One and correctly assessed that they were not up to the job but then retreated behind clinical states’ rights arguments as a great American city drowned.

In his new memoir, Dick Cheney faults Blanco for dithering and not requesting that the president federalize the response to Katrina. It’s a variation on Rummy shrugging that “You go to war with the army you have.”

Always the hard-liner, Cheney notes: “President Bush has written that he should have sent in U.S. troops earlier, which may be true, but which to my mind lets state authorities off the hook too easily.” Why save lives if you can slap bumbling Democrats around? Proving once more that he is truly delusional, Vice praised President Bush in the wake of Katrina for “reaching out to people who needed to know that their government cared about them.”

The awful hypocrisy is this: As we saw when they spent trillions trying to impose democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan, W. and Cheney believe in big government, in a strong, centralized executive power. But with Katrina, they chose not to use it.

By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 30, 2011

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Disasters, GOP, Government, Governors, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hurricane Irene And The Benefits Of Big Government

Don’t expect anybody to throw a tea party, but Big Government finally got one right.

On Monday, six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and obliterated the notion of a competent federal government, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate offered an anecdote that showed just how different things were with Hurricane Irene.

On the podium in the White House briefing room, he recalled the satellite images of Irene’s path. “Do you remember seeing the satellite, how big that storm was and how close it was to the state of Florida?” he asked. Fugate, the former emergency management chief in Florida, said that a decade or so ago, “Florida would have had to evacuate based upon this track.”

Instead, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s improved models predicted landfall in North Carolina, and, in fact, “the track was only about 10 miles off of where they actually thought it was going to come ashore.”

This was just one piece of the overall anticipation of Irene and response to the storm that has earned high marks for FEMA and NOAA. Like the killing of Osama bin Laden, it was a rare reminder that the federal government can still do great things, after all other possibilities have been exhausted.

Such successes might provide an antidote to the souring of the public’s confidence in government. By coincidence, a Gallup poll released Monday showed that only 17 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a new low.

More likely, however, Americans won’t have long to savor this new competence in government. NOAA has already been hit with budget cuts that will diminish its ability to track storms, and FEMA, like much of the federal government, will lose about a third of its funding over the next decade if Tea Party Republicans have their way.

In the spending compromise for this year worked out between congressional Republicans and the White House, NOAA’s budget was cut by about $140 million (House Republicans had sought much larger cuts) and money for new satellites was cut by more than $500 million from President Obama’s request. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco warned in May, “we are likely looking at a period of time a few years down the road where we will not be able to do the severe storm warnings . . . that people have come to expect today.”

Congressional Democrats and the White House were somewhat more successful this year in resisting cuts to FEMA that Republicans had proposed. But under the House Republicans’ plan to freeze discretionary spending at 2008 levels over a decade, FEMA cuts are inevitable. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress’s Scott Lilly that takes into account inflation and population, this amounts to a 31 percent cut in real per capita spending on discretionary functions such as FEMA.

Tea Partyers who denounce Big Government seem to have an abstract notion that government spending means welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies. Almost certainly they aren’t thinking about hurricane tracking and pre-positioning of FEMA supplies. But if they succeed in paring the government, some of these Tea Partyers (particularly those on the coasts or on the tornadic plains) may be surprised to discover that they have turned a Hurricane Irene government back into a Katrina government.

The Irene government would seem to have its benefits. Before the storm struck, 18 FEMA teams deployed from Florida to Maine, repositioning as the emphasis moved to New England. Food, water, generators and tarps were in place along the storm’s path. In Vermont, when the storm forced evacuation of the state emergency operations center, the workers relocated to a FEMA facility. In North Carolina, FEMA provided in-the-dark local authorities with generator power. And everywhere, FEMA, given new authority by Congress after Katrina, didn’t have to wait for states to request help.

“We have to go fast; we have to base it upon the potential impacts,” Fugate said Monday, describing the Irene response. “That’s why we look at these forecasts we get from the hurricane center, and we make the decisions based upon what the potential impacts could be. If you wait till you know how bad it is, it becomes harder to change the outcome.”

That’s one model. The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good.

You might call that the Tea Party model.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 29, 2011

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Disasters, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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