Selfish Elites — Really?

This week brought the (to me) amazing news that Republicans do not want to refill FEMA’s coffers to help victims of Hurrican Irene unless the funds are offset by cuts in government spending elsewhere.   Of course, they insist there is no way taxes could be raised on successful business (sitting on a trillion dollars in unused cash) or high income individuals (why should they suffer because other people were foolish enough to live in places like New Jersey or New York or Vermont that suffered from floods?)

Let’s set aside the question of whether there is any real change in the earth’s climate and whether human activity has anything to do with it.  What we do know is that this year saw unprecedented drought in the southwest, torrential rains and flooding in the upper Mississippi basin, the most destructive tornadoes in decades in the lower midwest, and now earthquake and hurricane damage in the northeast.  Should ‘Government’ do anything to help those seeking to rebuild, whether states, localities, or individuals?   Not, heaven forbid, if people who are sitting on tons of money have to give any of it to the government for that purpose. (However, it was perfectly fine — indeed necessary — to use the money of ordinary taxpayers to bail out megabanks and corporations when they had their own form of disaster in 2008-2009).

Democrats should respond by offering Republicans a set of definite choices — military hardware, medicare coverage, unemployment benefits — and asking Republicans to specify exactly which programs they would cut to provide FEMA money for Irene’s and other natural disaster victims.  If the Republicans are going to be absurdly selfish, they should at least be asked to be explicit about it!  If Democrats just let Republicans speak vaguely of ‘prudence’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’ they risk (again) losing a battle that they should never have to fight, and certainly don’t have to lose (again).

But will they stand up to the policies of selfish elites?  If not, see my earlier post “Why Great States Decline” for the consquences.

About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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