Now that fiscal cliff panic is under control, we can return to panicking over Super Storm Sandy, which flooded the streets of Washington with juicy pork. One of the few people in D.C. who still counts calories while everyone else stampeded for Sandy’s Real Fiscal Pit Bar-B-Q, House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa, sized up the Senate’s “relief” package and said, “They sent us a bunch of pork and then left town, and that was just wrong. And the speaker has the support of the majority of Republicans that if we???re going to provide relief, we can???t allow it to be doubled with unrelated pork no matter where the relief is. And the relief will come early next year but it will come at the $27 billion level or I don???t expect to be voting for it.”
What the House actually got from the Senate is more like $60 billion, and contains urgent relief for the unfortunate residents of Sandy-devastated areas in New York and New Jersey, in addition to:
A new roof for the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Money for fisheries in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and American Samoa.
$100 million for Head Start programs, one of Washington’s favorite education projects.
$800 million for federal harbor and dredging projects that will mostly occur in the St. Louis area.
Army Corps of Engineers funding related to the study of “climate change.”
A nationwide study of water resources.
The cancellation of loans dating back to Hurricane Katrina, including after-the-fact subsidies to communities that actually repaid their loans.
Over a billion dollars for highways and trains, including almost $200 million for a massive Amtrak project in the Northeast that has been under way for years.
$150 million for rebuilding parks, refuges, and recreational areas.
Much of the spending that would occur in the areas affected by Sandy have little or nothing to do with emergency hurricane disaster relief, as an extensive study from Taxpayers for Common Sense points out. There’s money for all manner of long-term studies; funding for Housing and Urban Development projects; new equipment for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and even money to replace vehicles from federal agencies such as the FBI and Immigration.
As with the Amtrak project mentioned above, a great deal of this money would be sluiced into projects that were under way long before Sandy struck. Some analysts say less than $13 billion of the bloated Senate package actually constitutes immediate disaster-related spending.
This Sandy bill, far from being an urgent act of relief for the tragic victims of the storm, is a full-on national disgrace. It’s a bitterly cynical effort to extort the American people, using the Sandy victims as leverage. We should be howling for the heads of those who stuffed it full of pork, whether their constituents live in New York or not.
And we should heap shame upon those who insist the bill get passed in a blind rush of full-scale unreasoning panic, as if hungry people in the Tri-State Area will keel over dead unless Congress acts immediately. There is time to deliberate carefully and prepare a better bill. FEMA still has ample funding for immediate disaster relief. There is one significant legislative obstacle in the way, the impending shortfall of a key flood-relief fund, but there are many ways of dealing with such a problem without slipping on blindfolds and launching bags of money at American Samoa with a catapult. At the very least, since so much of the spending in the “Super Storm Sandy Emergency Relief Bill” wouldn’t occur for months, or even years, shouldn’t the new Congress have an opportunity to discuss it and vote on it?
But instead, the powerful new “never let a good crisis go to waste” mentality is in full effect, so everyone involved in delaying a vote is suffering castigation as a “chucklehead” whose actions are “indefensible”… and that’s coming from two Republican representatives, Steve LaTourette of Ohio and Peter King of New York, respectively. Washington spends money it doesn’t have, lies about what it’s paying for, and insists that the only thing our titanic central government cannot afford is time for proper deliberation.