Yes, Congress and the White House managed to punt on any real solutions to our ever-growing debt crisis, reaching a deal that raised a lot of taxes but cut no spending. Yet the real signal that we are truly doomed as a country may have come from a bill that did not pass – not yet. The House of Representatives failed to pass a $60 billion relief bill for Hurricane Sandy, prompting Republican Governor Chris Christie to act like a petulant child who didn’t receive all that he wanted on Christmas morn.
“There is only one group to blame,” Christie said. “The House Majority and John Boehner.”
“Last night, the House Majority failed the basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state,” he said. “It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
“Shame on you, shame on Congress.”
Following his remarks, Christie doubled down on his criticism in a lengthy — and incredibly candid — press conference in which he laid into House Republicans for putting “palace intrigue” ahead of their actual jobs.
“Our people were played last night as a pawn…and that’s why people hate Washington, D.C.,” Christie said later. “They forget that we’re the ones who sent them there.”
Representative Peter King (“R” – NY) also blasted his party and even threatened quitting in anger – hours before throwing his support for Speaker John Boehner when others within the caucus attempted to oust him from leadership.
But King and Christie are just speaking out for their poor constituents who desperately need federal aid. Ummm, not exactly. Daniel Foster lists some of the items contained in this bill:
•$2 million to repair damage to the roofs of museums in Washington, D.C., while many in Hurricane Sandy’s path still have no roof over their own heads.
•$150 million for fisheries as far away from the storm’s path as Alaska.
•$125 million for the Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Watershed Protection program, which helps restore watersheds damaged by wildfires and drought.
•$20 million for a nationwide Water Resources Priorities Study.
•$15 million for NASA facilities, though NASA itself has called its damage from the hurricane ‘minimal.’
•$50 million in subsidies for tree planting on private properties.
•$336 million for taxpayer-supported AMTRAK without any detailed plan for how the money will be spent.
•$5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers – more than the Corps’ annual budget – with no statement of priorities about how to spend the money.
•$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies, without identifying a single way to pay for it.
As Foster notes, money has already been appropriated to deal with the immediate situation. And as Katrina Trinko adds, only 15 percent of the money allocated in this bill would actually be spent this year. Some emergency funding, huh? But of course the esteemed Senators from Alaska will not tolerate any criticisms of their pork requests.
These are two very real and very serious disasters that Alaskans are facing. The first being the salmon disaster which was declared a disaster by the federal government this past September – Alaskans are still waiting for relief after the devastating impact on fisheries. After Japan’s generous gift of $5 million, the U.S. government needs to step up to the plate as tsunami debris poses serious navigational hazards and risks to coastal communities. Sandy remains the priority in this bill, but given that many of the dollars allocated for debris will go to charting and mapping it, this bill is a more than appropriate vehicle to bring up these disasters which have severely impacted Alaska’s communities.
This fiasco highlights some things you need to know about our government, and why things will never improve. As Senator Begich’s comments illustrate, there is not a dime of federal spending that will not be defended by someone. No matter how trivial, no matter how seemingly wasteful, there will always be someone out there to defend that dollar (or millions) of appropriation.
More importantly, Christie’s childish reaction shows that even s0-called fiscal conservatives cannot be relied upon to remain level-headed. Surely Christie must be aware that some $20 billion or so of this bill is completely unrelated to dealing with the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. Instead of criticizing those in Congress who decided to weigh down this bill with unnecessary measures, Christie decides to demagogue the issue and blame the people who are at least trying to behave responsibly. Surely Christie could have called upon Congress to mass House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers’s much more reasonable disaster relief bill. But that’s not the Blusterer’s style. This was a moment to get on the evening news, and he wouldn’t have done so had he criticized Democrats.
Chris Christie is the golden child of “fiscal conservatives.” If even he is unwilling to patiently await passage of a reasonably considered bill that would focus on actual hurricane relief, but instead would prefer to scream about the need for IMMEDIATE PASSAGE NOW!!!!!!!!! – then what hope is there that we can ever achieve fiscal sanity in this country.
Ace has some sobering words to consider in light of this fiasco.
Watching “fiscal conservative” Chris Christie fail to say one word about those who demand that relief for his state be bought with unrelated spending for their own states, which weren’t hit by catastrophe — shouldn’t it be noted that Lisa Murkowski and Don Young of Alaska won’t vote for those left homeless by Sandy until some local businesses get their “cut”? — it occurs to me that he is accommodating himself to reality.
The reality is vox populi, vox dei — the voice of the people is the voice of God. And the voice of this particular shabby god has decreed that we shall be financially reckless and we should go through a national bankruptcy, and there’s no sense trying to avoid it, so we’ll just run up a huge tab buying multiple 65 inch 3D tvs before we crash.
Given that the people wish to spend money they do not have, and soon will not have (for all the same reasons that people with bad credit can’t rent a car — your ability to borrow is precisely related to your projected future ability to make good on your loans), and will not be diverted from this disastrous course, what can anyone do?
. . .
But for now, let’s go get a few of those sweet 3D TV’s and watch Pirates of the Caribbean IV.
You’ll think I’m a wonderful, well-providing father… for the next month or so.
After that, you may hold a different opinion of me. Major negative changes in circumstance tend to do that.
But for now– 3D TVs. Have you ever seen such a clear, sort of three dimensional picture? Aren’t I your hero? At this moment, I mean.
We deserve the government we have.
Oh, and before I hear from any wiseguys, two of my brothers had to abandon their flooded homes because of the storm.
This is a Catholic blog, so I am not capable of fully sharing my feelings regarding Mayor Michael Bloomberg right now. The man who has spent a good chunk of his mayoralty sticking his nose in the lifestyle choices of his citizenry, supposedly out of concern for their health, doesn’t seem very interested that some of them are lying dead or are missing. No, it’s not as important as making sure this crucial marathon is run.
As Drew M says, the “getting back to normal” thing doesn’t start until relief efforts are fully exhausted and there’s a full accounting of the damage, and all the missing have been accounted for. The idea that they’re going to divert resources away from Staten Island and other parts of the city in order to accommodate a bunch of people who want to run a long distance is sickening. Staten Island is fairly large, but there are few means of getting in and out of the island. Closing down the primary means of getting to the island and delivering relief items for any amount of time is criminally insane.
What a disgrace.
Edited to add: If anyone wonders why this is madness, read this:
As hundreds of thousands of Big Apple residents suffer in homes left without power by Hurricane Sandy, two massive generators are being run 24/7 in Central Park — to juice a media tent for Sunday’s New York City Marathon.
And a third “backup” unit sits idle, in case one of the generators fails.
The three diesel-powered generators crank out 800 kilowatts — enough to power 400 homes in ravaged areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways and downtown Manhattan.
As of Friday morning, 11 generators sat outside of the park and a food services truck dropped off hundreds of cases of water, sparking angered responses from hurricane victims.
Update: They finally came to their senses and cancelled.