To hear Democrats tell it, the reason that there is opposition among Republicans to the $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill is that the GOP are a bunch of miserly meanies who don’t believe government should help people.
But as the Wall Street Journal points out, it would be nice if that $60 billion could all go to helping victims of the hurricane and not an exercise in pork barrel politics:
Look at some of what was in the $60 billion bill: $150 million for Alaskan fisheries; $2 million for roof repair at the Smithsonian in Washington; and about $17 billion for liberal activists under the guise of “community development” funds and so-called social service grants. Far from being must-pass legislation, this is a disgrace to the memory of the victims and could taint legitimate efforts to deal with future disasters.
California Republican Darrell Issa had it right when he told Fox News that “They had the opportunity to have a $27- to $30-billion legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it.”
Beyond the recriminations is the larger problem that every disaster has become a Washington political opportunity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is fully funded but does an incompetent job. Federal flood insurance encourages overbuilding in storm zones, so taxpayers pay first to subsidize the insurance and then to save the homeowners who overbuilt. And politicians use the public sympathy after any disaster as an excuse to throw even more money not merely at victims but for pent-up priorities they should be funding out of regular state and local tax dollars.
Mr. Boehner’s sin was ensuring that the House had time to sort the pork from the parochial. Mr. Christie should thank him on behalf of New Jersey taxpayers.
If there was ever a prime example of why we have a $3.7 trillion federal budget and a more than $1 trillion deficit, this “hurricane relief” bill is it. Before earmark reform, it was nearly impossible to figure out exactly how much spending in a particular bill was actually going for the purposes contained in the bill’s language. It is typical that billions of dollars would be thrown into the bill, usually in the dead of night, with little or no debate in order to please powerful lawmakers or favored interest groups and cronies.
And this is just one bill. It happens hundreds of times every session; millions here, a billion or two there — it adds up quickly. Before you know it, you wind up with Washington running everything and spending far more than it takes in.
The criticism from Governor Christie and others misses the mark. If the Republican Congress had simply rubber-stamped this bloated piece of legislation, they would have been derelict in performing their duty to oversee the public purse. Not that they do such a bang-up job at it now. But too often in recent years, Congress has rushed to approve legislation that contains these add-ons and sweeteners without giving it a second thought. Maybe it’s about time they did.
This is beyond the kind of venial corruption we are used to from Congress. It is immoral. It happens because so few of us are willing to pay attention to what they are doing with our tax dollars.
Stripping this bill of pork is a good place to start changing that.