Astonishingly, and not content to lose New York’s 26th congressional district to a Democrat for the first time since anyone can remember, the Republican leadership – in the person of House majority leader Eric Cantor - has poured salt an open wound by proposing to withhold aid to the states most hard hit by tornados in the last week unless there is an exchange with offsetting spending cuts by Congress. The Virginia Republican said “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”
To this writer at least, it appears Cantor handed the Democrats yet another issue on which to campaign in 2012: that of being about as coldhearted as, well, as the proverbial banker. It should be even more evident to any voter that Cantor’s statement comes just a few days after House Republicans voted not to close tax loopholes for the energy industry, protecting $40 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to Big Energy, which is enjoying record profits. In essence, it took Cantor less than a heartbeat to make a political issue out of a disaster which so far counts more than 300 American dead and as many as 1300 missing.
Needless to say, Cantor is getting plenty of pushback in the states most affected by tornado damage. The Republican reaction to a disaster from even no less a conservative than Tom DeLay, who advocated for immediate, no-questions-asked aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina will definitely be an issue in the upcoming campaign season.
Ron Paul, the muddle-headed Texas congressman and Tea Party presidential candidate, a party which constitutes a very healthy percentage of the GOP now, has said that tornado victims should not be given any help at all, while his governor, Rick Perry, whines that FEMA isn’t giving Texas enough money in the wake of the recent wildfires devastating the Lone Star state..
The lesson is clear. On one level, Americans believe that in some way government is “too big,” yet, when asked whether or not spending reductions should affect those governmental agencies which protect their food, water, banking, transportation, financial policies, parks, medical needs, etc., and of course disaster relief, they are overwhelmingly for having the fed step into the breach.
The 2012 Democratic platform will be built in large measure on asking Americans to decide on what course to pursue. The weather disasters in the Midwest, in the heart of tea partyism, shine a bright light on that precise question. Will we swim together or sink individually?