Thursday, August 25. 2011
Brian Beutler: Cantor Spox: If There's Hurricane Damage, Costs Have to Be Paid for With Spending Cuts: With his brain locked onto a single commanding idea, and perhaps a bit intoxicated by his sense that he can just say things and make them dictates, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has decided that any unplanned, unbudgeted disaster relief has to be paid for in cash cut from other planned, budgeted programs. I never thought I'd long for the days when Republicans asserted that government should be run like a business. But the fact is that if any viable business was hit by uninsured storm losses the first thing they'd do is go to the bank and take out a loan. Same basic thing for households: say a storm smashes your car and the insurance doesn't cover replacing it, what do you do? Most folks need that car bad enough to go in debt to buy a new (or new old) one. Then, of course, you adjust your budget to cover the cost of the new debt, but you don't stop eating or paying the rent or whatever. You adjust.
The problem is that people with small minds and rigid ideas cannot adjust. They won't bend; they just snap. How such people rose to the leadership ranks of the Republican Party is probably an interesting story, but I doubt that it would come out much different from the case histories in Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: if you take these rigid, uncompromisable "principles" to their absurd conclusions, you'll find that when you finally see government swirl down the drain in Grover Norquist's bathtub, you'll see civilization vanish with it.
It feels a little weird to have written that last line, because I've always regarded the federal government as an oppressive burden as much as a blessing. I might even have applauded if had Cantor had insisted that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had to be budgeted out of cuts elsewhere, which at least would have forced Congress to think a bit setting out on paths that would soon cost trillions of dollars. On the other hand, disaster relief is something that only government can do, and that we instinctively look to government to do -- derisively, of course, when government fails miserably, like Bush did after Katrina. Moreover, while Cantor may laugh at tornados (and hurricanes and earthquakes and floods and fires and mudslides and droughts and the pretty good chance that rising sea levels will move the Florida coast to somewhere in Georgia), people who actually administer governments are remarkably fond of the programs -- just ask Gov. Rick Perry, who's been begging for more federal relief for Texas's droughts and fires.
Quite some time ago -- well before Katrina -- it occurred to me that disaster response would be the basic litmus test of competency in government. Clinton was very big on it, raising it to a cabinet level position, while Bush was utterly cavalier, treating it as just another way of dispensing crony patronage. (Of course, Jeb Bush, as governor of disaster-prone Florida, was on the ball and made out as well as could reasonably be expected -- a far different story from the Democrats in Louisiana.) Moreover, between global warming and relentless development especially in risky areas, disasters are becoming increasingly common, and increasingly expensive. So why do Republicans like Cantor want to hamstring government's ability to deal with disasters that affect potentially massive numbers of our own people, on our own land, dependent on our own infrastructure? Stupid doesn't begin to cover it. They are slaves to the fixed ideas they call principles. Next thing you know they'll look at something like Katrina and insist that charities can handle it, or speculate that if only you cut taxes further the private sector would swoop in and fix everything.
Steve Benen: Cantor's Callousness Turns Preemptive: Another link on Cantor and disaster -- an association that even God may have trouble rivaling:
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