Last night, I received a note through the grapevine, letting me know that some newly homeless folks in Prattsville, New York needed some personal items. The list included a hairbrush, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pacifier for the baby (the baby’s is buried in mud somewhere on the first floor). Thanks to the quick assistance of friends and family, those items and many more are on their way today.
Indeed, the folks on the mountain top where much of my family actually lives (and are safe, thank goodness) are being assisted to a great degree in the days following Hurricane Irene by FEMA, the National Guard and the Red Cross. I am so thankful that both government and non-governmental services exists. When I can’t get to my family because of blocked roads, and phones and electricity are still out, I know they are being cared for because of the collective social structures we all helped create and keep going every day through that thing called the government.
The sadness I feel for those families, churches, farms, small businesses and more turned into anger last night. US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that the Tea Party Congress won’t give additional disaster relief funding until they first figure out how to cut the federal budget further.
This morning’s Times Herald-Record published the views of New York Congresswoman Nan Hayworth: one of our very own local Tea Party darlings:
Hayworth, R-Mount Kisco, said she would only vote to replenish the federal disaster fund if new spending was offset by budget cuts. She said those cuts should come from “non-defense discretionary spending.” Hayworth likened her position to a family skipping vacation if it was overwhelmed by bills.
Let me clarify just in case the everyday reader isn’t exactly clear on what “non-defense discretionary spending” is. That’s where money for essential programs like early childhood education, afterschool education, job training, heating assistance, nutrition and anti-violence programs come from. Correct me if I’m wrong, but those things don’t sound like a “family vacation” to me. They sound like necessary programs that are helping a very down and out society stay afloat.
The first round of budget cuts and “austerity” measures being pushed by the right in the deficit ceiling negotiations were immoral and a set up for further economic recession. It is common sense that if you further deprive a starving community, they will continue to do just that- starve. But now, conservatives want to actually starve communities. If the past actions of the Republican House were not enough to convince the public of its heartlessness, its response to disaster relief funds should open people’s eyes to their true colors.
The simple fact that people even need to ask if the federal government will be there for them in a natural disaster is preposterous. The 10 year anniversary of 9/11 makes me wonder if the Republicans in Congress would come through if such an event happened again. And would they be willing to cut back on the war mercenaries we are still paying to fight an unjust war 10 years later?
If Nan Hayworth, Chris Gibson, Richard Hanna, Anne-Marie Buerkle or any other New York Republicans represent your congressional district, I urge you to call them and give them a piece of your mind. I also encourage you to start gearing up for one heck of a 2012 election season.
We thought George W. Bush was bad. We didn’t know what was coming. Not the left, not the Democrats, not the unions, but the American people – who know that what is happening to our country and to our democracy is wrong – must band together in the coming months to oust the Tea Party Congress and elect people with common sense, and a moral compass that points toward justice.
Please click here to read today’s press release on the disaster by the Restore the American Promise network, a coalition Citizen Action of New York helps to lead. And check back here soon to find out more on what you can do to help those in our region facing immediate needs due to Hurricane Irene, that is, besides calling your member of Congress.