It’s a week before Christmas – the season of giving! Despite the drain Christmas shopping can have on the wallet, generous givers from across the country have devoted some of their hard-earned money to help New Jerseyans devastated by Hurricane Sandy by donating to many private disaster relief campaigns.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are making Ebenezer Scrooge look like Warren Buffett when it comes to generosity and the Christmas spirit. The same fiscally responsible Republicans that can’t find a single thing to cut out of the $925.2 billion we spend on defense are balking at dishing out the funds to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
You might like to think Republicans are acting out of some adherence to fiscal sanity or responsible budgeting when it comes to FEMA spending and disaster relief. After all, that’s what they say when the question comes up. You’d be wrong. It’s all about cynical, dirty, annoying politics.
Republicans like to hold things hostage. First it was the debt ceiling. Then it was tax cuts for the middle class. Now, they’re playing politics with victims of Hurricane Sandy, threatening to hold hostage vital funds for Hurricane Sandy relief unless Democrats agree to completely unrelated spending cuts.
It’s almost inspiring to hear their complete cynicism on the issue of spending. “We have these emergencies every year and we should prepare for that in our budget,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho,) Well, back in Sept. 2011, Senate Democrats approved $6.9 billion to refill the disaster emergency fun, and guess what House Republicans did? They cut that amount by nearly half while demanding $1 billion in offsetting cuts.
According to a New York Times editorial column, over the last two years alone, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Is that responsible governance?
Nowhere is their hypocrisy on spending more apparent than in defense spending. Progressive web site AlterNet published a list of seven shocking ways the military wastes our money, and it’s hard not to go “Hulk smash! as you read through the waste and abuse of taxpayer money.
For instance, did you know the U.S. armed forces employs nearly 1,000 generals, all with their own entourage and fiefdom, which include divers, security guards, secretaries, and in many cases personal chefs that would rival Wolfgang Puck? As the New York Times noted, this staff alone for the military’s highest-ranking generals and admirals can easily exceed $1 million – each!
That doesn’t boil your blood? Well, what if I told you the Pentagon ran 234 golf courses around the world? The cost is undisclosed, but the Department of Defense’s Sungnam golf course in Korea is reportedly valued at $26 million. And just so they don’t exclude non-golfers, the military also maintains a ski lodge and resort in the Bavarian Alps, which cost $80 million when it opened in 2004.
I haven’t even brought up the 1,000 military bases overseas, or failed projects like the F-22 fighter, which has yet to see combat and is overmatched against cheaper, foreign jets. All at a cost of nearly $80 billion.
If all this weren’t bad enough, Republicans are continuing to push for tax cuts for the upper 2 percent as part of the stalemate of the so-called Fiscal Cliff. The total cost would be about $700 billion over the next 10 years.
All of this is apparently more important then helping Americans devastated by a once in a lifetime natural disaster that has shattered their lives and damaged their homes.
New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett suggested to CNBC host and fellow New Jerseyan Jim Cramer that he might veto the proposed $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill over concerns about “accountability” for “wasteful spending.” I would ask him what’s more wasteful – helping repair communities devastated by a natural disaster in his own state, or giving generals, admirals and wealthy individuals money they didn’t ask for, and don’t need?
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.