Yesterday I wrote about storm season, and how much I enjoy seeing the awesome and awful power of severe weather. Today, in Oklahoma, there are men, women and children who died from that awful power. You can’t look at the photographs or hear the stories of the survivors and first responders without being heartsick.
The only thing most of us can do for them is open our wallets and give generously (there’s information on how to donate to the Red Cross at the bottom of this post).
People will say this is not a time for politics. They’re right; it’s a time for governance. But the sad fact is, in recent years effective governance has been fettered by narrow-minded politics. And among the most narrow-minded politicians are the two Republican senators from Oklahoma: James Inhofe and Tom Coburn.
Both senators have repeatedly voted to deny increased funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees disaster relief. Coburn said the funding of FEMA would be “unconscionable.” Both senators have also voted against funding disaster aid (or voted to reduce requested aid packages) for various natural calamities that have taken place throughout the U.S.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut requested around US$82 billion in short and long term relief. Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to reduce that to $23.8 billion — the absolute minimal cost to clear the debris, repair basic infrastructure, and rebuild destroyed homes and businesses. They opposed any funds to included long-term infrastructure improvements aimed at helping to prevent damage from future storms. Inhofe referred to the aid request as “a slush fund.”
The reason these two have given for opposing disaster relief is budgetary. They describe themselves as fiscal hawks. They’re ideologically opposed to spending any government funds that would increase the nation’s deficit.
That might be a more convincing argument if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that it was Republicans — including Inhofe and Coburn — who helped create that deficit, largely by supporting two wars that weren’t paid for. I suspect most Americans would, if given a choice, have preferred to spend that money on disaster relief than on a pointless war of choice.
I suppose some folks will be impressed by Coburn’s response to the disaster in his home state. On his Facebook page, Coburn says:
My thoughts and prayers are with those in Oklahoma affected by the tragic tornado outbreak.
He insists, however, that any federal disaster relief given to his state must be offset by budgetary cuts in other areas. In other words, some other part of the government will have to suffer in order for the people of Coburn’s state to get the financial aid they’re going to need so desperately in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Inhofe’s official Facebook page also offers thoughts and prayers:
I will continue to pray for the families and individuals who lost a loved one, suffered damage or lost homes and possessions during the storms that tore through Oklahoma and the Midwest yesterday evening. Representatives from FEMA have contacted my office and are ready to respond should Governor Fallin request federal assistance.
You’ll notice he isn’t asking for any federal aid himself. He’ll leave that to others. It should also be noted that people on Facebook aren’t always responding kindly to Inhofe’s and Coburn’s thoughts and prayers.
Disaster assistance used to be a given. When one part of the nation took a hit, Congress automatically authorized the federal government to do what governments are supposed to do: help the people. Everybody in Congress simply put politics aside and did what was necessary to give aid and comfort. It’s just the decent thing to do.
But that’s changed. More and more we’re seeing Republicans taking the Coburn-Inhofe Approach. “I’ve got mine, Jack — you’re on your own.” It’s a selfish, small-minded, mean-spirited approach. But it works. Why? Because we’re not all assholes. Because when a great wind flattens a town in Oklahoma, most of the people of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut will grumble and say “It would serve them right if we fucked them over they fucked us.” But because we’re not all assholes, they’ll grumble and still open their wallets and offer help.
Coburn and Inhofe deserve to be treated like the assholes they are. The people of Oklahoma who voted for those assholes deserve no better treatment. But we’ll help them anyway, and we’ll do it because we’re not all assholes.
You can donate to the Red Cross by calling 1-800-733-2767. You can also donate by going to their website: http://www.redcross.org/ok/oklahoma-city. You can even auto-donate $10 by texting Redcross to 90999.
Donate what you can. Donate because the people of Oklahoma need your help. Donate because they’re not going to get much help from Senators Inhofe and Coburn. Donate because you’re not an asshole.