Eric Cantor: Any Tornado Disaster Relief Must Be Off-Set By Spending Cuts

Should we worry about the deficit when funding "disaster relief"? Should we be funding "disaster relief" at all?

With tornadoes continuing to make their way through the Midwest, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is laying down the law:

The No. 2 House Republican said that if Congress doles out additional money to assist in the aftermath of natural disasters across the country, the spending may need to be offset.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”

Finding ways to offset disaster relief funds could be a significant challenge for House Republicans and would put their promise to cut spending to a true test. Roughly 100 people have died in Joplin, Mo., in the last few days after a tornado cut through the town.

On some level, I agree with Cantor. This is an issue that comes up every time there’s a natural disaster of some kind, and the idea that we should go further into debt because of a tornado seems absurd when there are so many places in the budget that could be cut. However, the public relations aspect of this seems rather obvious, and I’m pretty sure that the people in Joplin, or Oklahoma, or Alabama would really be thrilled with Washington playing political games while they wait for money to rebuild.

Of course, one does has to wonder why every natural disaster suddenly becomes a reason to ask for more money from Uncle Sam. Isn’t this what insurance is supposed to be for? For example, when people build houses on the beaches of North Carolina [or, perhaps more appropriately, Florida — Ed.] and don’t insure them (because they can’t,  because no insurance company would insure such a house), why should they expect taxpayers in Iowa to pay to rebuild them when they’re destroyed by a hurricane? Honestly, I don’t see any reason that they should.

However, I’m sure someone will say I’m cold and heartless for thinking that way, which is exactly what Cantor is risking by taking this position.

One final thought, if we are going to continue making payments like this, wouldn’t it make sense to have it be a budgeted item instead of having these requests added as supplements to a budgets that’s already been passed? Congress could approve the funding of a disaster relief fund every year and, to the extent it isn’t used, it would roll over to the next year to be added to the next year’s amount. Obviously, a large scale disaster like Katrina or 9/11 could require more funding, but most of the money that is paid out if Federal Disaster Relief goes for incidents that are far smaller in scale than those events. Perhaps this wouldn’t work given current budgeting rules, but it makes sense to em.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Natural Disasters, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. At some point the costs of denying global climate change will begin to outweigh the costs of doing something. Until then, expect business as usual: more tornadoes, more floods, more hurricanes, more heat waves, more failed crop harvests and the like.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I imagine Eric Cantor is getting some very interesting phone calls from the Missouri delegation right now.

    We borrow money to finance tax cuts for rich people, but we can’t borrow money to help some middle class guy whose house was just blown away. Stick with that: we can always use Missouri in the blue column.

  3. Chad S says:

    You actually can get Hurricane/flood insurance in NC. Hurricanes actually rarely hit the Outer Banks.

    As for Cantor’s comment, you don’t say something like this publicly. You say it privately after the money has been disbursed.

  4. wr says:

    I don’t think you’re cruel and heartless, Doug. I do think you have contempt for the most basic notion of a civilisation, which is people coming together to provide mututal aid. But that’s pretty typical of libertarian thinking.

  5. wr

    I am a strong supporter of organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army so you can take that theory of yours and…………..delete it.

  6. Chad,

    My mistake, I probably should’ve said Florida. Nonetheless, the point remains

  7. Chad S says:

    I don’t think that its hard to get it there either. Hurricanes hit the US much less that people think.

  8. There are certain parts of the coastal US in the East where such policies are impossible to obtain, or nearly so

  9. ratufa says:

    For example, when people build houses on the beaches of North Carolina [or, perhaps more appropriately, Florida — Ed.] and don’t insure them (because they can’t, because no insurance company would insure such a house), why should they expect taxpayers in Iowa to pay to rebuild them when they’re destroyed by a hurricane?

    I understand the “don’t build on a flood plain if you have a choice and expect government-subsidized insurance” argument. But, I’m not sure how that applies to this case, unless you are suggesting that people just don’t live in tornado alley.

  10. Chad S says:

    Flood insurance maybe, but hurricane insurance is usually easy to get

  11. anjin-san says:

    As I said earlier today, the GOP congress is the gift that keeps giving.

    To Obama’s re-election effort, that is.

  12. Yes, flood insurance

  13. Franklin says:

    Looks, there’s hurricanes in Florida, earthquakes in California, tsunamis in Hawaii, snowstorms in the Midwest and along the East Coast, and tornadoes in the middle. While I’m some would like everybody in the U.S. move to Arizona where it’s 100% guaranteed perfectly safe, I’m basically okay with the status quo. As it is, home insurance hardly protects you from anything that might actually happen (for example, mold and flooding), so that argument is basically worthless to me.

    And I don’t think the Red Cross and Salvation Army have the resources and authority to do some of the things that need to be done in true disasters.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    If you subtract the parts of this country that are in danger from natural disaster — hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, tornados, ice storms, drought — you don’t have a country left.

    It’s the essential job of government to provide for common defense — from foreign armies or natural disasters.

    That said should people buy insurance? Duh. But there’s a lot that happens that isn’t a matter of insurance. State Farm won’t come and dig your kids out of a destroyed home.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Damn, Franklin, you beat me by two minutes.

    Great minds. . .

  16. State Farm, et al, aren’t going to cover the infrastructure damage, and I don’t know if all that is insured. Then there’s the problem that with so much damage in one small area and so much of the community affected so completely, just handing somebody a check won’t accomplish that much. I grew up in the midwest and have lived in Virginia and Florida, so have some exposure to hurricanes and tornados. I don’t wish any disaster on anyone, but I tend to feel worse for tornado victims because it is so sudden and random in a way that hurricanes aren’t, and my sympathy for peole that build right on the shore or on barrier islands just isn’t as great. Of course, that doesn’t mean the pain and loss of those who suffer in hurricanes is any less, but it is more predictable.

    Any “adult” budgeting would have a provision for disasters because they happen every year. I don’t know that it makes sense to budget for something like Fukushima, or New Orleans and Katrina, but how can anyone imagine that this year or next is going to feature losses and damage due to tornados, earthquakes and hurricanes, the proverbial acts of God. Tell me again exactly what FEMA is supposed to do, because I sure as hell can’t figure it out. But somehow, “government” is going to ride to the rescue?

    As to Mr. Reynolds objections, two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, please eliminate the crony capitalism and welfare for the rich? Hell, it is the liberatarians here who have consistently bitched the loudest about that. Should Joplin and others be helped? Yes. How much? That is a legitimate matter for debate. Can the funds be taken from somewhere else? Should the funds be taken from somewhere else? Yes and yes. Otherwise money will never be budgeted for disasters in an “adult” manner and the expectations for Uncle Sam-ta Claus to just print money is never going to stop.

  17. PD Shaw says:

    I support ending government subsidies for flood insurance 1-5 miles from the coast.

    As I understand it, most federal disaster relief goes to “public” property, though I believe the definition of public property is broad enough to include utilities, hospitals and other services that may be private. It’s not clear to me that these are “insurable risks” either because of the uniqueness of what has been damaged or the magnitude will exceed the limits of what a policy would cover.

    Last time I was in New Orleans (2009), there were plenty of abandoned houses that weren’t being rebuilt; they didn’t have insurance; the taxpayors aren’t paying for that. But the city had a functioning sewer system, electricity, potholed roads and courts and jails.

  18. Sorry, meant “… is not going to feature losses and damage…”

  19. Jib says:

    Wait a minute, I thought disaster relief was non-discretionary spending? Non-discretionary spending is money spent when a person or entity qualifies for it. This is stuff like SS, Medicare, Unemployment, crop subsidies, actually a whole bunch of stuff. It is not budgeted because you can not really know how much you are going to spend. I think they usually budget a block amount to cover it but if more people retire than expected and you need extra SS funds, or if unemployment sky rockets and you need a lot more money for benefits, then the money is spent, period.

    I think if the Federal govt declares a area a federal disaster then you are entitled to your funds (if you qualify), just like SS or unemployment. There is no budget vote, the funds are spent, period.

    Seriously, what is Cantor talking about? Is he proposing to eliminate the Federal Disaster Relief program? Do republicans really think after all those red states were hit by storms that there is something to be gained by begrudging the disaster spending? Even for this bunch, it is amazingly tone deaf.

  20. ponce says:

    Sounds like Congress needs to pass a disaster tax.

  21. James says:

    Firstly, there are specific eligibility criteria that the affected area must meet in order to be declared a “federal disaster area” which triggers federal aid. Something like ~~ $10 million in public infrastructure must have been destroyed, etc, etc. The major slice of federal emergency funds goes to rebuilding infrastructure; they also coordinate efforts on the individual level to help affected individuals, families, cities and localities to qualify for other programs that they may be eligible for, such as section 8 housing. In addition, there are many kinds of damage that homeowner’s policies won’t cover. Your policy will cover rain damage but not flood damage, for example. I doubt very many people can get tornado coverage. Earthquake coverage is prohibitive, and so on. You might want to check your homeowners insurance and see what you got.

    Red Cross and Salvation Army can only do so much. Their role in disaster response is providing temporary shelter, food and water, help in locating lost loved ones. And don’t dismiss that– it is a huge, huge role in a disaster like this. Same with Salvation Army. They provide food, clothing, etc on an emergency basis. But they aren’t, can’t be, there for the long term. That’s not what they do.

    It’s pretty easy to sit in a comfy chair and pontificate on the internet about flood insurance. But you need state and federal government help in clearing the rubble, for example, and rebuilding the roads. Take a closer look at the scope of the damage in Joplin — blocks and blocks of sheer rubble. Those people have lost their jobs, their homes, their families, and it takes a huge, coordinated effort for the area itself to recover. the city can’t recover until there are jobs, and supermarkets, banks, schools, etc. The scope of the devastation is beyond the ability of individuals and volunteers — you need to run new phone lines, rebuild power and water and sewage plants, hospitals, etc. Don’t let your shallow ideology get in the way of imagining what it takes to rebuild even a small town like Joplin.

    And yes, I’d say that grousing about helping these folks and this city rebuild while they are still looking for their children underneath ten feet of rubble is pretty meanspirited.

    I suggest that you do what it takes to become a volunteer first responder for the Red Cross. You’d have a little perspective about the magnitude of disaster response and recovery. And count yourself lucky as hell you haven’t had the bad luck to lose E V E R Y T H I N G you own and love to a catastrophe like this. Because I can guarantee that when you are standing in the middle of a massive catastrophe like this, you gain a whole new perspective.

  22. TG Chicago says:

    I’m sure someone will say I’m cold and heartless for thinking that way

    No, I just think you’re putting ideology ahead of common sense. As others have pointed out, government has a unique role to play in natural disaster recovery.

  23. anjin-san says:

    I’m sure someone will say I’m cold and heartless for thinking that way

    Or perhaps you just have limited life experience. Have you ever experienced a disaster first hand? Had you home damaged/destroyed and found out oops, private insurance does no really help me out?

  24. James says:

    Yah, we’re the United States of America! Number One! We don’t have enough money to send relief to a small Missouri town of 50,000 people that was just flattened by a tornado. Suck it up, people! The libertarians think you ought to fend for yourselves! Light torches at night, roast a stray dog for dinner, piss in the woods, but DON’T ask for any handouts.

    Like something out of the Twilight Zone.

  25. Ben Wolf says:

    What advanced country exists in which citizens from over there have no responsibilities toward ctizens over here? I’m seriously asking the question, as libertarians commonly argue that Taxpayer A shouldn’t have to pay for Taxpayers B’s insert something you don’t like here.

    What advanced nation does not pool the resources of its citizens for advancement of the common good? Where can I find a functioning example of a society which delivers more freedom and a better standard of living without doing this?

  26. michael reynolds says:

    Charles:

    I take your point, but the disparity in scale between borrowing to finance tax cuts for the rich vs. borrowing to rebuild disaster areas calls to mind a certain quote:

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

  27. Wiley Stoner says:

    I suspect there is some part of “we are out of money” liberals do not understand. At some level, government has to borrow the money to pay for these things because we spend more than we take it. Here is a shock for you. Some day soon, the people who loan us money are going to look at how much we owe and just say no. At that point, your liberal house of cards will come crashing down. My plan after the fall of the economy is to tie a liberal to every tree for the dogs to feed on.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    Wiley:

    I can always tell from your comments when you transition from a-hole to drunk a-hole.

  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @ Wile E.

    You still drawing unemployment benefits? You know, that thing financed with borrowed money which you would never have gotten were it not for liberals.

    And your plan for thanking them is crucifixion followed by animal consumption of their remains.

    P.S.

    Have you apologized to Michael yet for speculating about the rape of his daughter?

  30. James says:

    How about we divert that $2.5 billion that we send to Israel every year to FEMA emergency relief? That way we can help out the good American folks in Tornado Alley without having to borrow. That should satisfy Cantor and the libertarians, yes?

  31. Nightrider says:

    >>>>While I’m some would like everybody in the U.S. move to Arizona where it’s 100% guaranteed perfectly safe<<<<

    Hell no, that's more federal water subsidies.

  32. Herb says:

    “Of course, one does has to wonder why every natural disaster suddenly becomes a reason to ask for more money from Uncle Sam. ”

    It’s right there in black and white: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

    Now maybe it’s going too far to include disaster preparedness/response to “defense” but it most certainly is germane to the general welfare of the United States….

    “why should they expect taxpayers in Iowa”

    Again, because the taxpayer in Iowa and the hurricane-affected homeowner in North Carolina both live in the United States. And that’s how we roll.

  33. Alex Knapp says:

    One final thought, if we are going to continue making payments like this, wouldn’t it make sense to have it be a budgeted item instead of having these requests added as supplements to a budgets that’s already been passed?

    It is. But Obama didn’t ask for enough to cover funds already allocated. And the Republicans cut his request in half.

  34. A voice from another precinct says:

    Doug, read the fine print in your homeowner’s policy. I expect that it excludes damage from “acts of war” and “acts of God.” The fact that athiests do not believe in God will not affect the insurance company’s refusal to pay for damage to your house in the case of an earthquake, flood, tornado, or whatever else happens.

  35. Davebo says:

    For example, when people build houses on the beaches of North Carolina [or, perhaps more appropriately, Florida — Ed.] and don’t insure them (because they can’t, because no insurance company would insure such a house), why should they expect taxpayers in Iowa to pay to rebuild them when they’re destroyed by a hurricane?

    I’m curious Doug. Where in Florida are you referring to? I get the NC barrier island thing, but that’s really rare.

    And how are these houses being financed without insurance against hurricanes? Do you have even a sliver of experience in this area? Because is doesn’t sound like it from this post.

  36. Dave Schuler says:

    I agree that there’s a role for federal emergency disaster assistance. In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster there may not be much of an alternative and federal help can be instrumental in preserving life and aiding eventual recovery. That may continue for a year after the actual event.

    However, the federal government isn’t the only government and federal help isn’t the only sort available. There are also state and local governments as well as private individuals and institutions and, historically, not only have these been much more effective in ensuring long term recovery, active leadership by local officials and private individuals has been essential.

    I wrote about this at some length after Katrina some years ago.

  37. sam says:

    The Times has an interactive aerial map of Joplin pre and post-tornado. Sobering.

    Libertarians put me in mind of Stevens’s poem The Snowman:

    One must have a mind of winter
    To regard the frost and the boughs
    Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

    And have been cold a long time
    To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
    The spruces rough in the distant glitter

    Of the January sun; and not to think
    Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
    In the sound of a few leaves,

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place

    For the listener, who listens in the snow,
    And, nothing himself, beholds
    Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

    Minds of winter, indeed.

  38. hey norm says:

    I’d like to hear what Cantor has to say right after a Hurricane hits Virginia. (Criminy – look at the way he whined when a stray bullet happened to hit his office.) Just listen to Perry – Mr. Secessionist – on his knees begging for federal emergency funds because of wildfires.
    This is one of the key roles the federal government plays. Fema’s budget is something like $7b…throw in another billion or two for the odd disaster…it’s really small (ok – medium sized)potatoes.
    We are borrowing $400b a year for the Bush tax cuts and that doesn’t include the debt service. That’s what driving the debt – not tossing some money at some folks who had their homes leveled and are unlikely to ever collect from insurance scams companies.
    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3490

  39. James says:

    I wonder how the Republicans feel about this now: Weigel : GOP’s Continuing Resolution Cuts Funding for National Weather Service, FEMA; Posted Friday, March 11, 2011. Someone should ask Cantor if he has second thoughts on that.

    You evidently don’t know or understand the first thing about disaster response. Before further pontification, I suggest that you take a comprehensive course in Emergency Preparedness Training to understand the basics of multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional disaster response and how the various levels of government, relief organizations, and the private sector integrate roles and functions in a catastrophic event like this.It isn’t anything like the simplistic scenario you are imagining.

    First of all, local and state resources are employed FIRST and federal resources, in addition to dealing with destruction of federal infrastructure — roads, bridges, etc — coordinate inter-state and inter-locality agreements such as coordinating rescue teams, heavy equipment, interstate businesses such as telecomms, and so on, as well as assist local government and individuals in accessing any programs they may be eligible for. The command-and-control structure puts first local, in this case probably state, emergency management officials in control of the response. Only in an inter-state emergency would the feds head up the command.

    This isn’t anything like the disasters of 1871 or 1900. Can’t you come up with a little more recent example of American catastrophe to argue your case? I guess it doesn’t really hurt anything for libertarians to sit back in their comfy offices pissing and moaning about spending a dime on repairing a town flattened by a F5 tornado but it isn’t helpful for people like Cantor to use the tragedies of American citizens to promote his mean-spirited political agenda.

  40. Rock says:

    We are borrowing $400b a year for the Bush Obama tax cuts and that doesn’t include the debt service.

    Correction, Obama tax cuts now. He last signed it into law.

  41. PD Shaw says:

    In addition, there are many kinds of damage that homeowner’s policies won’t cover. Your policy will cover rain damage but not flood damage, for example. I doubt very many people can get tornado coverage.

    Yes, a typical policy won’t cover flood damage, but a typical homeowner’s policy should cover tornados. I question whether insurance is available for the public infrastructure.

  42. Anderson says:

    While I’m some would like everybody in the U.S. move to Arizona where it’s 100% guaranteed perfectly safe

    Meteors!

    … I hope the Dems can find videotape of Cantor saying this, and play the hell out of it in Missouri. Way to go, Team Red.

  43. tom p says:

    A couple things:

    1) One can buy tornado insurance. I have it. Exactly what it covers and what it doesn’t…. Ahhh, the devil is in the details, details that will not be forthcoming until I file a claim. Kinda like hurricane insurance. Many people have hurricane insurance but do not have flood insurance. Hurricane insurance covers wind damage, not flood damage. It may seem like common sense that when hurricanes hit there are floods so the one policy should cover all, but it doesn’t.

    2) Federally subsidized flood insurance does allow people to build in places they really shouldn’t, but out and out ending it would not work either. What are you going to do, move Houston? There should be a common sense way to make it work better but I am sure that with our present Congress it will be impossible to find.

    3)

    However, I’m sure someone will say I’m cold and heartless for thinking that way,

    No Doug, just incredibly myopic and lacking in imagination… Kinda like the State Legislator (Kansas?) saying women should plan for rape.

    It can happen to you.

  44. john personna says:

    We should do disaster relief, but the problem is we have no self-restraint. We do way too much disaster relief. We don’t specifically help the poor people devastated. Entire regions get Federal benefits for years to come.

  45. @michael reynolds:

    If a Walmart or Target was destroyed by the tornado, should federal tax dollars be spent to rebuild the store? How about, say, an Exxon gas station?

  46. PD Shaw says:

    Here’s FEMA’s description of what relief it provides:

    A major disaster declaration request will also include a request for assistance under one or two broad categories of assistance, which we refer to as public assistance (PA) and individual assistance (IA). Public assistance is financial assistance for repairing public infrastructure, like roads, schools, fire stations, etc.

    Individual assistance can be provided to eligible individuals and households who are uninsured, or under-insured, and suffered losses due to disaster damage. It’s important to remember that by law, the amount of individual assistance a person or household can receive is capped (just over $30,000 for this year, and may not cover losses to the extent that a flood insurance policy would, which is why we are often encouraging families to purchase insurance. This assistance is also intended to support only necessary and serious needs that resulted from the disaster.. . .

    FEMA is also able to provide assistance by serving as a coordinator for the federal agencies that can help support response and recovery efforts. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses its engineering and contracting capabilities to support FEMA and other federal, state and local government agencies in a wide variety of missions during natural and man-made disasters.

    Link

    I’d be interested in knowing what typical individual assistance looks like, because $30,000 isn’t going to replace a home.

  47. michael reynolds says:

    Stormy:
    The glib answer would be yes to the Target, no to Wal-Mart since I shop at Target.

    I don’t think disaster relief does rebuild Wal-Marts. I think it rebuilds the roads and power systems leading to the Wal-Mart, and aids the emergency services sustaining the Wal-Mart.

    There’s an argument that the Wal-Mart may be the largest employer in a small town, thus help would be critical, but it’s in the nature of chains to have deep pockets and to carry insurance.

  48. PD Shaw says:

    Federally subsidized flood insurance does allow people to build in places they really shouldn’t, but out and out ending it would not work either. What are you going to do, move Houston? There should be a common sense way to make it work better but I am sure that with our present Congress it will be impossible to find.

    There is a bi-partisan bill that got voted out of the House this year that would move try to eliminate subsidies and increase privatization. It got voted out of committee by something like 47-0. I’m not familiar with the details, but clearly the flood insurance program is hemorrhaging money — conservatives shouldn’t like it because of it’s budgetary impact, and progressives shouldn’t like it because of it’s subsidization of wealthy vacation homes on the beach and it’s incentives for over-development.

  49. PD Shaw says:

    I meant that it got voted out of a House committee.

  50. john personna says:

    Michael, the Targets and Wallmarts have the money and the business-school smarts to either buy insurance or consciously self-insure. It is a crime if we “help” those folks.

  51. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s an argument that the Wal-Mart may be the largest employer in a small town, thus help would be critical, but it’s in the nature of chains to have deep pockets and to carry insurance.

    Unless things have changed in the last five or six years Wal-Mart generally self-insures. That’s pretty common for very large companies.

  52. Moosebreath says:

    PD,

    “I’d be interested in knowing what typical individual assistance looks like, because $30,000 isn’t going to replace a home.”

    From personal experience*, once you cap out at the maximum assistance, you get offered a low interest SBA loan (even if you don’t own a business) for the rest of your costs.

    * In 2004, we had a 500 year flood in my town (7 inches of rain in 2 hours), which overwhelmed the storm sewers. Since we live on the low point of our block, the water which would have gone into the storm sewer came down our driveway and forced its way into our house, flooding the basement floor to ceiling and about 12 inches on the first floor. Since we were not within a 100 year floodplain, we did not have flood insurance, so our homeowners paid us $5,000 (it appeared that rain water also flooded the septic sewer lines, which backed up into the house — this is the maximum the policy covered for septic sewer backup). After we hit the maximum assistance, we got an SBA loan (with 30 years repayment, 3.15% interest, secured by a second mortgage on our home, and conditioned upon buying flood insurance in the future) for the rest.

  53. Herb says:

    I’m glad someone brought up Wal-Mart. The company gets a lot of flack, but there’s no way that Wal-Mart would even consider leaving these communities in the lurch. Which makes those notorious penny-pinchers a bit more decent than the penny-pinchers in the Republican Party.

  54. My take: I see Doug (and others’) point here about relying on The Gov for assistance during times of natural disaster.

    Regarding Cantor’s statement — it is poorly timed. If he wants to fight that fight, fine. Just don’t do it while rescue workers are still combing through the rubble for survivors.

    But, the bottom line is you can take away FEMA and all of it’s resources — and we’ll still have financial issues. Until someone wants to have a serious conversation about entitlements and defense spending, this is all moot.

  55. mantis says:

    I am a strong supporter of organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army…

    Oh good. You’re a strong supporter of organizations not remotely capable of dealing with the problems at hand. How nice for you.

    This is like saying we don’t need police forces, and when someone brings up crime, you say “I’m a strong supporter of neighborhood watches.”

  56. mantis,

    There’s a difference between emergency management and the idea that the Federal Government has to be the insurer of last resort every time someone’s house falls down.

  57. anjin-san says:

    Why don’t we just leave it as it is? Rubble & ruins. The people who lost their homes can build shacks at the edge of town. A nice preview of the tea party vision for America. It’s what they would do in Somolia…

  58. Rob in CT says:

    Jesus, Doug. You gotta be kidding me.

    By the way, I do think one could have a rational discussion about reforming how we do flood insurance in this country. I do think the current method is problematic. That has zero to do with Tornados, though.

  59. mantis says:

    There’s a difference between emergency management and the idea that the Federal Government has to be the insurer of last resort every time someone’s house falls down.

    Doug,

    There’s a difference between making a legitimate argument and erecting a straw man to wail against. You are doing the latter. Is anyone claiming the government must be the insurer every time a house falls down? No, but you are eager to reduce the near total destruction of a town to “someone’s house falling down.” Where do you get off being so callous and dismissive in the face of disaster? They’re still looking for survivors and bodies, and you’re busy arguing we should forget the incident entirely because well, it’s just not a big enough disaster to impress you.

    But hey, what’s insurance for then? The town’s power lines are down, their hospital is pretty much destroyed, their schools are gone, and in total an estimated 8,000 buildings have been destroyed. Homeowners insurance should fix it all up, right? What planet do you live on?

    Also, let me just point out, regarding insurance, that in the past 60+ years, Joplin has been hit by exactly one tornado. Just one. Yeah, those dirty looters should have been prepared for this, and if they weren’t, screw em. Here’s a blanket from the Red Cross, moocher.

  60. It is striking that you can use the word penny pinchers about people who only want to see government grow at a sustainable rate instead of at an unsustainable rate. It’s like Thelma and Louise where you see that the creditors have you surrounded so you decide to floor it and go over the cliff in a blaze of glory. The very recent growth in government expenditures remains absolutely unsustainable, no matter how worthy the list of things you want to spend money on. Oh dear, I’ve lapsed again into the problem with the whole need-based theory of spending, but I digress.

  61. anjin-san says:

    Where do you get off being so callous and dismissive in the face of disaster?

    Simple. It did not happen to him.

  62. Herb says:

    “It is striking that you can use the word penny pinchers about people who only want to see government grow at a sustainable rate instead of at an unsustainable rate. ”

    If you’re worried about sustainable government growth while you’re standing in the middle of a pile of splinters that used to be your town, I submit that you’re worrying about the wrong things.

    Nice to see the Pavlovian anti-government stuff shows up even in a disaster, though.

  63. James says:

    WalMart will probably rebuild, and write off the loss of inventory. But they don’t have the capacity for same-day, same-week dispatching of search-and-rescue, body recovery, clearing of the rubble, much less rebuilding and restoring the infrastructure that enables them to do business in the town. Nor do they have the capacity to provide immediate assistance to all of the customers who have lost their homes, their belongings, their jobs, their wives, their children, their parents. It’ll be a while before people can shop at WalMart again, even though they want to. WalMart can provide a measure of charity assistance, but with more than five thousand homes lost, infrastructure flattened, they can only do so much. It’s a huge, huge task, even in a smallish town like Joplin.

    You evidently lack the imagination to comprehend what a catastrophe looks like, and what is entailed in dealing with it. And let’s not forget, these are taxpaying citizens of the United States, your neighbors. And you certainly lack any compassion for your fellow Americans, which is one of the defining characteristics of the libertarian personality. I hope and pray that it never happens to your family.

    And I wonder if Billy Long, (RMO7) and Senator Roy Blunt regret cutting $126 million from the National Weather Service, when Joplin was looking to upgrade their early warning system. Someone should have them account for that. As for having government grow at a sustainable rate, I’d rather my tax dollars went to helping my fellow Americans deal with their losses than send 2.5 billion taxpayer dollars to Israel every year. But I don’t get that choice, and neither do you.

  64. @mr:

    So you will concede there are groups of people who have both the financial means and sophistication that they should be expected to have provided for their own recovery in the event of a disaster. That being the case, would you agree that within the general principle that the federal government should help in the aftermath of a disaster, there are specific instances where it is okay to withhold aid in the name of avoiding a moral hazard within those aforementioned groups?

  65. An Interested Party says:

    Correction, Obama tax cuts now. He last signed it into law.

    Well, of course, as he was blackmailed by the GOP into continuing all the tax cuts rather than just the tax cuts for the middle and lower classes…

  66. Her Herb, perhaps you didn’t read my other comments, or maybe you read them but didn’t understand them. Or perhaps you fail to see its not about the decisions, thoughts or feelings of those standing in the pile of splinters but the decisions and werewithal to act on those decisions by those not standing in a pile of splinters that we’re actually talking about.

    Jeez, do you really think that every need you can state has an unlimited claim on tax dollars as long as you can make a emotional appeal sufficient enough to snark at someone else about it?

  67. Well, of course, as he was blackmailed by the GOP into continuing all the tax cuts rather than just the tax cuts for the middle and lower classes…

    So Obama was blackmailed by the minority party in the House and Senate into continuing the tax cuts, when Democrats had the votes to pretty much do whatever they wanted, or have you forgotten exactly when the tax cuts were extended?

    When the narrative conflicts with reality, check your assumptions.

  68. And I wonder if Billy Long, (RMO7) and Senator Roy Blunt regret cutting $126 million from the National Weather Service, when Joplin was looking to upgrade their early warning system.

    I regard this particular kind of question unfair, to be charitable. Are you suggesting the problem is they weren’t prescient enough to know that a formidable tornado would hit Joplin? Or that you wouldn’t think as badly of them if it had happened somewhere in Indiana instead? Or that the are bad people for perhaps having a different set of principles other than just spend money every time you think someone needs it?

    You are also implying that had they voted for it (whether it then passed or not) the damage or injuries might have been not just lower, but probably a lot lower. Where is the evidence for this? My understanding is that the warnings went out and the sirens went off, as evidenced not just be the reports on the news but from all the stories of people who survived by heeding the warnings and taking refuge. Your decision to ignore the extreme magnitude of this tornado, where it had landfall and particularly when it had landfall that led to the devastation and deaths to score a cheap political point is unbecoming.

    Just curious, but do you know how much the National Weather Service has been appropriated the last ten years?

  69. James says:

    I think it is eminently fair to ask that Billy Long defend his vote. Perhaps the good citizens of Joplin, who are largely quite conservative, support the kinds of cuts to federal weather monitoring that we are talking about. Maybe they really don’t like spending the money to get warned about imminent tornados in their community. If so, then Long has nothing to worry about, right?

    The NWS is an aspect of fundamental infrastructure on the federal level. Billy Long voted to cut the NWS budget (which is ~~ $375m, rather small, isn’t it, only 15% of what Israel receives from us every year) by 30% . As a result of those cuts, a number of weather monitoring facilities would be closed and staff would be furloughed, maintenance of radar and other infrastructure would be deferred, and the ability to analyze and disseminate weather patterns, including imminent warnings, would be substantially reduced.

    No, cutting the service *now* obviously wouldn’t have prevented the loss of life this time around. So let’s just move on, is that what you are saying? Forget about this, and pretend this isn’t going to happen again? Just curious, do you have any clue about exactly what the NWS does? It isn’t a bunch of guys sitting in an office somewhere watching clouds on a television sreen.

    What is it with you libertarians and your reductionist straw men? You haven’t made a single rational argument, and the preposterous posturing that you have engaged in has highlighted your remarkable lack of knowledge. I thought you libertarians were the “intellectuals” of the conservative movement.

    Go ahead, make the rational argument that it isn’t the purview of the federal government to monitor weather patterns for interstate aviation and the health and safety of US citizens, and to disseminate emergency information as to imminent danger.

  70. mantis says:

    when Democrats had the votes to pretty much do whatever they wanted

    Understanding of Congress FAIL.

  71. James, conversely, what is about you libertarian haters that can’t seem to grasp what we are talking about without creating straw men and imagining we said things we never did? Let’s just move on and pretend this isn’t going to happen again? Really? When I just said exactly the opposite? Come on, get your game up. I haven’t made a single rational argument? Really? Do you have anything other than emotional appeals? Anything?

    If you want to go after aid to Israel, have at it. But what has that got to do with the NWS? Even if the US doesn’t spend another dime on foreign aid, much less just aid to Israel, I don’t think the money is somehow going to end up in the NWS coffers. And no, I don’t think $375M is small for one year’s funding. Technology is making it possible to close some older offices. Why is that a bad thing? To paraphrase Senator Dirksen, $375M here, $375M there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. As I noted and you thoroughly ignored, the warnings and sirens didn’t fail. Please, no really, please explain how some upgraded system would have saved Joplin next year or in five years had the appropriations been approved.

    Do I know what the NWS does? More than likely a good deal more than you imagine, but so what? I also would happily bet I know a bit more than the average poster here about imaging technology, flight safety and navigation too, but so what? Sorry but your final request about defending something more akin to anarchy than a tempered libertarianism is in your mind, not mine.

    I think any politician’s vote on anything is fair game to question, but as I indicated I think the grounds you are using here are silly.

  72. Understanding of Congress FAIL.

    Oh? Then please explain how a smaller Republican majority in one half of Congress can be so responsible for screwing everything up so badly now, much less a minority forcing Obama to continue the eeeeevvvviiiiiillllll tax cuts. Go ahead, I’ll wait for an explanation if you have one. Or is it just more snark?

  73. tom p says:

    .

    Understanding of Congress FAIL

    Oh? Then please explain how a smaller Republican majority in one half of Congress can be so responsible for screwing everything up so badly now,

    Charles, you are usually much more astute than this, however we all have our blind spots so let me explain this to you:

    IN THE SENATE, a minority can block a motion by a majority thru a thing called a “fillibuster” … If you still don’t understand…

    think “blue dog democrat”…

    If you still don’t get it, wait until the slaughter of 2012. Dems are not quite as stupid as GOPs to march over a cliff like lemmings.

  74. anjin-san says:

    maybe we should leave the bodies lying in the openuntil democrats agree to more cuts. never waste a perfectly good tragedy.

  75. tom p says:

    I really hope Libertarians take over the GOP.

  76. arykad says:

    So, on the west coast, it’s earthquakes. In the midwest, you worry about a tornado. on the east coast, the hurricane will get you. In the south, the drought will kill livestock and crops. Floods are rampant across most of the US. Oil spills trash offshore fishing. Bad years result in the a commercial downturn.

    Is any of this news? Disasters are different. They have different economic outcomes. They have different long-term effects on the economy, ecology, business and employment — and those effects are different based on mileage from ground zero.

    Could ANY state in the union claim that it could respond adequately to ANY disaster? NO.

    Unfortunately, it somehow just became optional.

    When your septic tank explodes, do you really have the cash in your pocket? When the neighbor’s tree falls on your house, do you say “that’s it, we’re not eating until it’s paid for”?

    Our government is FOR the people. It is also supposed to be BY the people. But we continualy elect multi-millionaires who give less than a crap about the average person.

    And then we are suddenly surprised.

    Repeatedly.

  77. arykad says:

    By the way, I’d really like to know what Cantor thinks about the continuing, ongoing, nuclear crisis in Japan. Perhaps he’d like to cut high-earner tax rates, and then gut Japan’s food programs, their welfare programs, their safety programs, their emergency response, cut regulation for nuclear energy companies, reduce funding for education programs, road maintenance…

    Sucks to be 22nd in the world. Even if we stopped watching that meltdown….

    Totally, ferret attention span, we.

  78. michael reynolds says:

    Stormy:

    Sorry, this is late but I lost the thread.

    Yes, I basically think means-testing is generally a good approach.

  79. tomp, allow me to explain things to you, Democrats voted to extend the tax cuts. Please, please explain to me how the minority Republicans forced them to do this. And also note that there were 59 Democrats in the Senate then. As we have repeatedly seen, getting one Republican to flip isn’t that hard to avoid a filibuster, but this isn’t even about a filibuster.

  80. ananair says:

    Eric Cantor
    What if Jerusalem Israel, instead of Joplin US of A had been leveled by a natural disaster?
    And it happened at 3 am US time. Would or would you not have jumped out of your bed, rushed to
    Congress to send millions of dollars to your compatriots? but if Americans lose their loved ones, their houses, their belongings, their jobs not a penny, unless we cut social security, medicare or education funds from American citizens.
    Hey, shouldn’t you have moved your sorry @ss, over there years ago, we Americans, do not need people like you.