Morning Bell: Uproar Over Bloated Sandy Aid Package
Amy Payne /
Leaders from New Jersey and New York blew up yesterday after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) postponed a vote on an aid package related to Hurricane Sandy. But the bill is so loaded with pork projects that these officials should consider directing their anger at the Obama Administration, which is hijacking the aid meant for their constituents.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie “in an angry news conference decried the ‘selfishness and duplicity,’ the ‘palace intrigue,’ ‘the callous indifference to the people of our state,’” ABC News reported.
Representative Peter King (R-NY) accused Boehner of “plunging ‘a cruel knife in the back’ of storm-ravaged residents ‘who don’t have shelter, don’t have food.’”
The real “selfishness and duplicity,” however, comes from those who insist that this bill is meant for Sandy’s victims—when in reality, it is a special-interest money fest. This is a terrible way to treat storm victims, by piling on other projects and tying them to an emotional legislative vote.
It amounts to exploiting disaster victims, which is inexcusable. That’s where the anger should be focused.
The estimate of insured losses from Sandy comes in around $20 billion—but the total aid package proposed is three times that amount. Roughly $28 billion of the request is marked for future disaster-mitigation projects.
The bill includes funding for Head Start, the federal day care program. As Heritage’s Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman fellow in education policy, explains, some Head Start centers may need repairs from hurricane damage, but handing the program $100 million—as the Sandy aid package would—is a large expenditure that deserves more scrutiny.
Other questionable items in the package, which have received wide media coverage, include money for fisheries in Alaska, free money for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and repairs to the Smithsonian. Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen adds that “there is the truly audacious $17 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, an embarrassingly transparent slush fund.”
As Heritage visiting fellow Matt Mayer has said, there is a much larger issue here. The spending request:
reflects the President’s cavalier attitude toward spending and deficits. He intends to exploit loopholes in the Budget Control Act that allow this new spending, above existing spending limits, without offsets. In an era of chronic trillion-dollar deficits, this is an act of willful fiscal negligence.
Mayer says the priority should be Sandy’s real victims: “all requests for funding for federal departments and agencies that does not flow to states, localities, businesses, or citizens for response and recovery activities should not be included in this supplemental request.”
Hurricane Sandy is the type of disaster that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should address. Federal assistance is needed. But the Obama Administration’s exploitation of hurricane victims for billions in additional government spending deserves an angry response from those affected by the storm.
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