One of the greatest contributors to the human race’s survival is that resources, needs, risks, and other conditions are present and common affecting the participants and their degree of cohesiveness. The concept of community, or the common good, is responsible for any nation’s survival, and Americans have historically viewed their fellow citizens as partners that either succeed together or fail as one, but that notion of community is under attack from Republicans and their libertarian agenda. As the 112th Congress came to an end on Wednesday, Americans got a preview of the “you’re on your own” mindset Republicans have advocated for the past four years, and it portends America’s drift toward the distinction of a nation defined by selfish greed and complete disregard for fellow citizens, or in other words; libertarianism.
When the 112th Congress adjourned for the last time, the House abandoned relief for Hurricane Sandy victims the Senate already passed because many Republicans objected to the cost. It is a recurring theme that plays out all too often, and it drew the ire of Republican legislators representing the affected areas. It is a mystery why the anger from men like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Republican Peter King was extraordinarily personal and why so many Republicans vented their outrage at only one man, Speaker John Boehner. It is not the first time Republicans have told other Americans “you’re on your own,” or that assistance is dependent on cutting aid to another demographic (typically the poor and elderly). However, although Republicans balked at passing the Senate relief plan over alleged concerns about earmarks and non-essential assistance, the real reason was summed up in a Koch-funded think tank statement applauding the decision to ignore the plight of hurricane victims.
One of the organizations calling on legislators to reject the hurricane relief bill, New Jersey’s Americans for Prosperity, said providing aid to the affected areas was disgraceful and would burden the country’s taxpayers and be misspent leading to a spending free-for-all. The state director of the Koch-funded group identified the relief bill as an attempt to “secure funding for wasteful endeavors by appealing to emotion,” and that “tragic things happen every day” that are not the federal government’s responsibility. His advice to New Jersey residents was “suck it up and be responsible,” and it is the libertarian answer to America as a community and unfortunately, a growing sentiment in Republican politics that reared its ugly head during the healthcare reform debate.
First, any federal government spending for disaster relief aid goes directly into local community’s economy in jobs and spending for materials, but the real issue is not the cost to the federal government or that American taxpayers resent their tax dollars going to help their fellow Americans struck by tragedy, it is the lack of regard for Americans that transcends disaster relief and permeates every aspect of Republican policies. The notion that any federal government expenditures not relegated to the rich and their corporations is a waste of money has been the underlying theme of Republicans for a decade, but especially since the election of President Obama.
Americans are generous people, but especially when disaster strikes whether at home or abroad. Directly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, in communities across the nation, Americans stood in extremely long lines waiting to donate blood because the overriding sentiment was a desperate need to help fellow Americans that transcended politics, race, and cultural differences. Americans have always come together to help those in need regardless if it is a family displaced by a fire or natural disasters and as a people, they expect their government to offer any and all assistance when the need arises without regard for the cost or use of their tax dollars, and especially when individuals can hardly handle such herculean tasks as restoring power, cleaning up storm damage, or shoring up coastlines to prevent the next round of flooding. Republicans adhering to the new libertarianism though think otherwise, and they have transformed the concept of helping those in need into a campaign against the idea of America as a community and helping the less-fortunate into a moral flaw.
Republicans have demonized safety net spending, Veteran’s benefits, school lunch programs, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as a waste of money better spent on the rich at the same time they claim America is broke. In fact, the recent campaign for the presidency highlighted the GOP’s belief that half of the population is a drag on the nation’s resources that the Ryan-Heritage Foundation budget aimed to remedy by slashing programs benefitting Americans Ryan called “takers” to fund entitlements for the “makers” or “job creators” the country is never “too broke” to afford, and it is why Republicans like Christie and King are hypocrites of the first order.
The idea that giving assistance to Americans in need is wrong permeates the Republican Party, and why Republicans are outraged when the policy hits home epitomizes hypocrisy. Chris Christie, in fact, is as hypocritical as any Republican because in September 2012, he headlined a fundraising event for Representative Steve King because Christie desperately wanted Republicans to maintain their majority in the House; King famously refused to vote for federal relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina. King announced in October 2012 that he would not support aid for Sandy victims unless there were specific provisions so the funds were not used for “massage parlors and Gucci bags” like after Katrina. After King was criticized for his extreme stance on disaster relief he said, “Sometimes you have to take lumps, but you have to do the right thing,” and in Republican circles, doing the right thing is telling victims of disasters and Republican economic malfeasance to “suck it up and be responsible.”
The idea of helping disaster victims should be a priority as much as helping victims of the Republican economic disaster, and yet men like Christie were silent co-conspirators until disaster strikes close to home. Where was Christie’s outrage when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor demanded offsetting spending cuts for disaster relief? Where was his outrage at Republicans when he spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in 2011 urging cuts to federal “entitlement” spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that affects the elderly, disabled, and very poor Americans? He claimed that America could not afford healthcare and retirement costs because they would “eat up everything else” such as tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, and cautioned Republicans to “stop being afraid” of talking about controlling the costs of government programs. Obviously, House Republicans took his advice and were not the least bit afraid of talking about rejecting critical aid to government programs to assist the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Republicans affected by Hurricane Sandy are reaping what they have sown for the past four years, and long after they get the relief their residents deserve, they will resume supporting Republican efforts to eliminate assistance to other Americans in need in their drive to enact “you’re on your own” policies. It is part and parcel of their drive to destroy any semblance of community in America as they demonize those in need and those who work to bring Americans together to work for the common good. What is a mystery though, is why Christie singled out Boehner for his rage when his Republican establishment characterizes federal assistance a waste of taxpayer dollars. If he supports Republicans cutting aid to Veterans, the elderly, the poor, and children, then he should “suck it up” and take personal responsibility for disaster relief because key to destroying the concept of America as a community is his message that America cannot afford to help its own citizens.