Hurricane Sandy relief needed sooner
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 18:01
Hindsight is 20/20. The idea is simple; if I knew then what I know now my choices would have been different. In situations where people recognize immediately they have made mistakes they call for a “mulligan” or a do-over. Congress recently found themselves in just such a position. In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana and devastated New Orleans and the surrounding area. Since that time there have been literally thousands of official reports on the failure of FEMA, Homeland Security, Local and State Government, and the overall efficiency of the Federal Government in administering assistance.
In October of 2012 we were once again faced with a horrific storm hitting our shores. According to the New York Times, “(Hurricane Sandy) affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its damage is estimated at over $63 billion”. This set Congress up for another shot at disaster relief, but as could be expected they got things wrong again. Congress had passed legislation within 11 days of Katrina; it was more than 30 days before any such measure was passed for Sandy. After seven years, innumerable reports, dozens of documentaries, and even several Senate hearings, how did we fail so massively again? The answer is found in the content of the relief bill that was passed. Initially it had been set forth with $31 billion for immediate assistance, but by the time Washington finished it was loaded with pork barrel spending. In simple terms, pork barrel is the appropriation of federal government spending for localized projects. They are added into legislation in order to garner money for a specific region or project that has special importance to the Congressional official. While schools and businesses were closed, tens of thousands were without electricity, and hospitals were overcrowded, our representatives failed to act while instead rustling up material to tout on the campaign trail in their districts.
Here are some of the items in the relief spending bill according to the NY Post: $8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security; $150 million for fisheries in Alaska; $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs; $13 billion would go to “mitigation” projects to prepare for future storms. It also included $41 million to fix military bases; $4 million for repairs at Kennedy Space Center in Florida; $3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and $1.1 million to repair national cemeteries.” Additionally, only 15 percent of funds designated to the areas impacted would be released in 2013. That means that 85 percent of the $60 billion passed will be spent on future projects, which doesn’t help those in need today.
Without question this was another huge debacle by our representatives in Congress. Given the opportunity to perform at a level worthy of their office they failed. In the future there should be no “mulligans” for this type of epic blunder. Hold them accountable with the one tool we do have, our votes.
Ken Corbit is a senior communications major of Jonesboro