The Politics of Catastrophe

A Note:  The last three posts started out as one big post, a politics roundup in anticipation of a week of family milestones that would push politics off the radar…as much as that ever happens for me.   When I found that each of my “briefs” was sufficient to be a stand alone post, I decided to take my lesson from last week to heart and make three posts out of one, and I ended up posting them in the reverse order from that in which I wrote them.  I’m telling you this for two reasons.

First, I think I managed to avoid making  references to the other posts as if they were in the same post, but if I missed one and something seems off as a result, that’s why.

Second, I wrote these posts on Monday, 9/5.  This post in particular includes coverage of an event that’s still unfolding, the Texas wildfires.  When I first wrote about it, only 300 homes had been destroyed.  That number has grown and is likely to continue growing.  So if there is data in this post that is not really up to date, that’s why.

Natural disasters have been in the news lately.  Thankfully, the Virginia earthquake turned out to be a relatively minor incident.  Everybody seemed to respond appropriately.  Politically speaking, it should qualify as a non-issue.

Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, was a major event impacting millions.  Sadly, there was loss of life and there are going to be lasting impacts and a need for government involvement.  That being said, government officials on both sides of the aisle on the federal, state and local levels have received high marks for their handling of the storm.  That is a good thing.

Of course, the fact that everybody did their jobs well has not kept politics out of the analysis.  First, Gov. Christie of New Jersey pretty much disqualified himself from consideration for the GOP Presidential nomination by praising FEMA.  Then there’s Michelle Bachmann’s “joke” about the hurricane and earthquake being a message from God about Federal spending or something.  I think Pat Robertson made some inane comment about divine judgment as well because the Washington Monument cracked in the quake.  Of course, he neglected to mention the damage to the National Cathedral.

Then we get to the question of emergency funds to help communities recover from Irene.  Stunningly, there is talk among the GOP leadership of insisting on spending offsets before authorizing relief funds.  This should be a non-issue.  When there is a natural disaster, it is important for Americans to know that their government is going to step in and help them first and deal with politics and budgets second.  This is especially important when it comes to the Federal government, the only level of government that can print money and therefore, the spender of last resort when state and local governments are overwhelmed as the y were but the actual disaster, as happened with Katrina, or when they are overwhelmed budgetarily due to low tax collections in a poor economy.

There’s one more disaster unfolding in Texas.  Wildfires had burned hundreds of homes as of Tuesday.  There are something like fifty fires burning in the state, which is under a red flag warning for heat, wind and low humidity.  Drought has ravaged that state this year.  Now, I’m loath to put such a tragedy in a political roundup, but I’ve seen comments from people of my political persuasion attacking the victims of this disaster because of Texas’role in the fossil fuel economy that is likely to be contributing to the state’s unprecedented drought, and because of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s emergence as the front runner in the GOP primary field and his expressed disdain for Washington.

I have no love of Rick Perry.  He’d make us long for the Bush years (and I mean W, not HW), but you do not criticize the politics of people who have just lost their homes in a natural disaster.  Such comments are as idiotic as those of the Robertson’s and Bachmann’s of the world declaring disasters to be divine judgment.


About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
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