As we approach the six year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, funding for disaster preparedness and response has become somewhat of a non-starter for congressional Republicans. Leading the pack is Eric Cantor of Virginia who has previously demanded that congress offset spending for disaster relief in the wake of the deadly tornados in the Midwest earlier this year that killed over 100 people and leveled entire towns. This time, he has kept this callous opinion of federal involvement in disaster stricken areas and affirmed that any aid for property damage from the East Coast earthquake must be offset by other federal spending. In fact, he has gone so far as to blame the victims for not having earthquake insurance despite the rarity of such an event:
“There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this,” the Republican said after touring the damage in his district. “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.”
This blasé attitude towards natural disasters has become a hallmark of Republican philosophy in the past few years. No longer does the idea of responsibility exist for them as government officials. A natural disaster is a random and unpredictable occurrence that can happen anywhere to anyone at any time. Eric Cantor, and many others in congress, just can’t find it in their hearts to, for once, stave off their individualistic libertarian ideology and perceive the human despair caused by catastrophe. After a natural disaster, the last thing anybody needs is coldhearted rationality.
Hurricane Irene is now barreling towards the East Coast and is inevitably going to affect tens of millions of Americans in one way or another. What level of destruction Irene will wreak is anybody’s guess, but I think it’s fair to say that we shouldn’t expect congressional Republicans such as Eric Cantor to go out of their way to make things better.