Republican Legislators Were Wrong in South Carolina Flood Disaster and 17 People Died

Republican Legislators Were Wrong in South Carolina Flood Disaster and 17 People Died

sc-flooding

Andrew Breitbart, who founded the right-wing website, Breitbart.com, died March 1, 2012, of heart failure at the relatively young age of 43. Breitbart was a tough guy to figure out politically. In his media life, he was associated with such leftist luminaries as Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington and Michael Moore. Conversely, he broke ultra-conservative bread with the Washington Times, Fox News and political right-wing extremist comic, Dennis Miller.

But his final years were mostly filled with hatred of liberals. After Ted Kennedy died, Breitbart almost immediately described the venerated Kennedy to the Harrisburg ‘Patriot-News, as a “villain,” a “duplicitous b*****d,” a “special pile of human excrement” and a word I can’t figure out how to censor without losing its meaning. Suffice to say, his reaction was beyond critical and mean-spirited.

Given the successor Breitbart site by the same name, it is, therefore, mighty surprising to find an account of the devastating South Carolina floods as being informative, objective and highly critical of the state’s Republican power structure. Here are some observations from a recent story from the site mixed in with other observations, demonstrating how “the party of no” lived up to its name, even in the most dire and deadly of circumstances.

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Before getting into the meat and potatoes of the matter, you should know that at latest count, 17 people have perished in my home state of South Carolina in a natural disaster described as a “thousand-year storm.” Sadly, the first victim lost her life in my county, October 1st. Silvia Trejo Arteaga drove into an underpass and apparently misjudged the depth of the water. As her car sank, she couldn’t escape. Most of the victims drowned; at least a half-dozen were killed in auto accidents related to the weather.

My informal measuring from a ‘can in the yard’ rain gauge, yielded a total of about 8½ inches in a period of just over two days. It turns out my readings were downright benign. State Capitol, Columbia, registered 17 inches of rain in 17 hours. That’s well beyond average monsoon levels.

The Congaree river that divides Richland and Lexington counties is 13 feet above flood stage and at least three dams burst last Sunday, according to the SF Gate website. A total of 13 dams have failed at last count and numerous others were breached. Governor Nikki Haley, lusting to be this election’s Sarah Palin, told the assembled media, that, hey, only 13 dams had failed, calling that number “fortunate” considering there were around 2,000 dams altogether. Uh, governor, there were breaches in numerous other dams, as yet uncounted and an additional 62 are being monitored for potential failure. A total of 270 state-maintained roads and 140 bridges have been closed.

At a news conference, reporters asked Haley and other officials repeatedly about whether state spending had fallen short on dam and infrastructure maintenance. Her demeanor was described as “testy” as she evaded the question by saying “I think the analysis of this can be done after the danger of the floods passes.” Does this governor pay the least bit of attention to the actions of her state’s legislature and transportation, infrastructure and water-oriented departments? These numbers have been gathered and analyzed for years. They just haven’t been acted upon. Most area pundits have damn near got them memorized.

Continuing on the ‘Duh’ path are these words from Senator Lindsey Graham. He estimates damage totals as high as one billion dollars and he wants federal aid to kick in right away. Of course he’s on record as having voted against such aid for a horrific disaster, Hurricane Sandy.

In order to keep his flagging, no-chance, race for the Republican presidential nomination viable, Graham patronizingly added that “the federal lifeline must be treated with care to avoid a “pork-laden monstrosity” like the feds aid package to the Northeast Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The real reason for Graham’s vote? It was a Democratic-sponsored bill and Republicans delayed its passage by 91 days. Graham was also following the lead of Ted Cruz, who, as our Sarah Jones wrote in 2013, renounced “Sandy” for its pork; and yet his state of Texas has siphoned off more Federal Emergency Management Agency funds than any other state since the beginning of 2009.

The Low country region of the state, located along the coast, is still facing potentially severe weather this weekend. That will surely add to the tragic statistics gathered to this point. All 375,000 water customers from Columbia, were told to boil their water at least a minute before drinking it. Statewide swift-water rescues will number well into the hundreds, probably exceeding a thousand, before things calm down.

An Emergency Management official pointed out that a car can be swept away in as little as a foot of water and stalled in two feet of water.

In a recent session, the state general assembly voted down a request of $400 million (Georgia just passed a similar bill at $900 million) for desperately needed infrastructure that had largely gone ignored for decades. Could Governor Haley’s promised veto of any bill that didn’t include a reduction in the state income tax been an influence to vote no?

Then the torrential rains started falling, the 400 million looked like a bargain. Infrastructures began collapsing like proverbial dominoes. Just like the Democrats predicted it would in such a circumstance.

Republican legislators refused to approve the expenditures out of fear of a Haley veto and because they didn’t want to raise taxes. Their reasoning was especially ironic since the business community was pushing the hardest for the upgrades and new construction. They’d figure their way around a tax increase, later. An oil company cited the extensive travel by their trucks on potholed highways. Yes, I realize a bill passed this year would not have had much, if any, impact on the flooding, but it’s still an imperative for the safety of the population.

Nobody can deny that the state was pitifully ill-prepared for Mother Nature’s tantrum of rainfall. Time ran out before adjournment, as the house and senate even failed to reach a compromise on respective gas tax increase bills that were two cents apart. South Carolina roads are basically funded by the state’s gas tax. It hasn’t been raised since 1987. My abacus calculates that’s 28 years.

About the amount of time it’ll take to clean this mess up.

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