What It Do: All In The Game Alex Benson January 9, 2013 Columns Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I’ve been through my share of hurricanes. 1984’s Diana served as the backdrop for one of my earliest memories—my father coming down the front steps, his bright yellow poncho flapping wildly in the gale winds, yelling at me to get down from the tree I had decided to climb. One of the few times my family lived away from the coast, in Charlotte, 1989’s freak-of-nature Hugo veered far inland and made a direct hit on my neighborhood. When 2012’s Sandy hit, I had the good fortune to be employed in a gig renovating an old beach motel on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The motel got socked pretty good during the storm, which automatically made me a clean-up worker, shoveling sand and dragging waterlogged pressboard furniture to the dump bin. But, in the grand scheme of hurricanes, North Carolina got off relatively easy this time around. When 2003’s Isabel came through, it literally cut an island in half, temporarily creating a waterway the locals appropriately named “Isabel Inlet.” However, for the Tri-State Area, Sandy was a storm of the century, as subway tunnels flooded and the Jersey coast was left looking like a war zone in some places. The damage was extensive and included an entire neighborhood burned to the ground in Queens. A great many people have returned to something like normal after the storm, but the damages from an event like this reverberate for years, sometimes even decades. Clean-up can be excruciatingly slow, and it is always expensive. It’s exactly in such circumstances that the federal government can make the crucial difference, and should step in to facilitate the rebuilding process. This is a principal that most rational people have agreed upon for generations, and those who disagree invariably change their tune when disaster strikes their own home. One might think the $60 billion relief package awaiting congressional passage would be the kind of thing that wouldn’t be subject to political gamesmanship. But, as has been pointed out in this space before, we live in the real world, and politics is a corrupt sport. Some of the arguments against the bill are simply ridiculous. Those who criticize the $13 billion set aside for future storm preparedness would do well considering what that money could save in lives and damage. Hurricane Sandy, just like Irene before that, demonstrated that there are measures that need to be taken to protect the heavily populated areas surrounding New York City. The process of planning and implementing any storm preparation measures will inevitably take some time, and any delay in getting started increases the risk that more storms will hit before the preparations can be made. Others argue that FEMA’s budget could be utilized in the short term, but that fails to appreciate the scope of the damage. FEMA’s entire agency budget of around $8 billion would barely scrape the surface of what needs to be done, and then what happens when tornadoes strike the Midwest or California experiences mudslides, or god forbid, another superstorm strikes? Reasonable criticism can be made of the package’s inclusion of some items that were surely the result of backroom bargaining, including $150 million for Alaskan fisheries, and $8 million for new vehicles and equipment for federal law enforcement agencies. God only knows what kind of favor trading and influence peddling went on behind the scenes. And, if someone has a realistic plan to eliminate such games from politics, I’m happy to listen, however skeptical my ear may be. But this is not the proper battlefield to attempt to hold that particular line. If the bill is delayed or amended, the backroom traders will get their pound of flesh, one way or another. It’s the people who live in areas hit by the storm that will suffer the consequences of the games being played. Because that’s really what’s going on here. Speaker John Boehner has been getting the worst of it in negotiations with President Obama—as evidenced by his recent announcement of “Uncle” in that regard—and during Republican caucus meetings, Eric Cantor has reportedly taken to cleaning his teeth with the knife he plans to stick in the speaker’s back when the moment is opportune. When questioned, Cantor’s spokesperson immediately laid the responsibility for the bill’s delay at Boehner’s feet. Cantor is the de facto representative of the TEA Party wing of the GOP, and he actually helped put the relief package together. It is unlikely that Boehner’s gambit is going to benefit him there. Perhaps Boehner’s plan involved holding the relief bill hostage as leverage in his re-election as Speaker Of The House. If so, it means that he perceives his position as even more perilous than is apparent to the public, which is strange because it’s unlikely Cantor would find any advantage in making his move until after the debt ceiling shenanigans are concluded. Whatever the raw political truth of the matter, this is another situation where the games in the capital cause needless suffering that’ll be remembered long after the congressional players have moved on to their private sector paydays. One can only hope that this particular game will draw to a close sooner rather than later. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.