The end of August has been a disaster for some people on the East Coast. They're called Republican politicians. And they are victims of having their ideological consistency revealed for what it is: retrograde thinking that is far, far out of the mainstream. None dare call it compassionate conservatism.
The East has seen a major hurricane and unusual earthquake all in one week. But the biggest cracks (or is it crackpots?) in the system are some leading Republicans who are espousing disaster assistance policies that are shocking, but completely consistent with the way the GOP has been handling things in Congress: demanding cuts, holding hostages, wanting to turn back the clock to the halcyon days before regulation.
Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, once of the most obstructionist members of the GOP congressional leadership, has long been for holding disaster victims hostage to the federal budget. Earlier this year, Cantor, who was chosen by his fellow GOP congressional members as the House majority leader, proposed withholding automatic aid for Joplin, Missouri, tornado victims until off-setting cuts could be found in the federal budget. In other words, we'll pull you out of the wreckage once we've agreed who's gonna pay for it with program cuts. I don't think anyone in their right mind would want Eric Cantor on the other end of their 911 call. "I'll send an ambulance as soon as the city council votes on how we're going to pay for it!"
Cantor was at it again this week in the wake of the quake that hit his district, among others. Though, because it was close to home, he softened his stance slightly, as The Washington Monthly reported on its Web site:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday that he intends to look for offsets if federal aid is needed to help areas of his Virginia district that were damaged in an earthquake Tuesday.
“There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this,” the Republican said after touring the damage in his district. “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.”
The next step will be for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to decide whether to make an appeal for federal aid, Cantor said. The House Majority Leader would support such an effort but would look to offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget.
“All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have,” Cantor said in Culpeper, where the quake damaged some buildings along a busy shopping thoroughfare.
Okay, let's unpack this a bit. The aid comes first and the cuts later when it's in Cantor's district. Second, "the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.” I assume he means that the Feds should step in to help cover uninsured property damage. So, when it's his constituents, apparently the government does have a role to play in helping people without insurance. You think Cantor will extend that thought to healthcare reform? Don't hold your breath. But at least he acknowledges a federal role for it in some cases, close to home.
The federal assistance Cantor wants to draw on is exactly the kind that is in budgetary jeopardy coming from that small slice of the federal budget that is cuttable after the sacred cows are largely preserved (tax breaks for corporations, tax cuts for millionaires, etc.). You wouldn't want any of these things sacrificed in a disaster, would you?
While Cantor's view of disaster aid, limited as it is, is pretty cold, it is positively humane compared with contending presidential candidate Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul's idea. On the eve of hurricane Irene, Paul called for abolishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Paul is absolutely frank about wanting to turn back the clock to a simpler time:
"We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960," Paul said. "I live on the Gulf Coast; we deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district.
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