Republican Party

Republican Congressman Says He’s Not Convinced Sandy Victims Need Relief

Hurricane Sandy aftermath in Breezy Point, New York

Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp told AFA Director of Issues Analysis Bryan Fischer Thursday that he saw no real need for disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. He says FEMA “can’t spend all the [money] quick enough.” In other words, FEMA already has money it hasn’t been able to spend on the victims, so what’s the rush in sending more?

He should talk to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about that, or New York Rep. Peter King. Both Republicans.

Huelskamp complained that the bill is “loaded up with pork” and that he is “not convinced yet” relief is even needed, leaving you to wonder just how out of touch a Republican can be. When he laments that “for some reason” people need relief from Hurricane Sandy I can only assume he is being willfully ignorant. Congenital stupidity can’t explain his comments.

Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

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“Of course people in that area need some help, but again if you have 10 or 20 billion dollars cash on hand and you can’t get it spent, why exactly does the first action of this Congress have to be passing a $60 billion spending bill, which we don’t have the money for.”

Funny. You never hear Huelskamp complain about FEMA spending money when that money is going to Kansas tornado victims. This is interesting, because in 2011, Kansas was ranked in the top-9 of states receiving FEMA disaster designations:

  1. Texas, 75
  2. Oklahoma, 45
  3. California, 24
  4. New Mexico, 13
  5. Arizona, 12
  6. Tennessee, 12
  7. New York, 11
  8. Kansas, 10
  9. Nebraska, 10

From 1998 to 2011, Kansas received $1,013,613,398 from FEMA, $85,969,362 between 2009 and 2011. Next time tornadoes ravage Kansas, will Huelskamp ask FEMA to butt out? The effects of anthropogenic global warming make tornadoes, like hurricanes, more likely. But I’ve yet to turn up any evidence that Huelskamp has ever told FEMA to keep its hands off Kansas storm victims.

Maybe Huelskamp’s real problem is that Kansas isn’t getting the $60 billion in relief. If we turn to the Heritage Foundation, we find visiting fellow Matt Mayer complaining earlier this year that Ohio is a net loser in the “nationalization” of disaster relief. Because “Ohio has has had only 46 major FEMA declarations since 1953,” which “works out to 0.78 declarations per year,” Ohioans are seeing there money going to help people in other states.

Mayer complained that “Outside of the handful of regionally or nationally catastrophic events such as Sandy and Katrina, FEMA declarations have become another pork-barrel tool presidents use to look good and governors seek to shift their disaster costs to other states.” Therefore, he says, ” It is time to end the nationalization of routine natural disasters. We must save FEMA and federal resources for events that have a regional or national impact. Ohioans should not be forced to subsidize tornadoes in Oklahoma, floods in Iowa or fires in Texas.”

That might be Huelskamp’s problem, that and a festering hatred of the federal government that employs him, but then all Republicans seem to suffer from this particular dysfunction. The thing is, Republicans are oddly unopposed to federal spending when it benefits them or their constituents, or to an even greater extent, their corporate owners and sponsors.

I might be wrong but I had thought that as a country, we all – every one of the fifty states – are in this together. The United States is a collective effort. Each state is not in it for itself, an independent nation. We put that theory to rest with the Civil War. The Ryan Budget, Mitt Romney, and pretty much every other Republican you care to name, would leave disasters to the individual states to handle. Ohio pollutes and therefore contributes to the environmental dysfunction that generates Frankenstorms like Sandy. But they shouldn’t contribute to the common relief from those storms it helps to generate?

Does this mean if the Ohio floods we can sit back and roast marshmallows? Will Republican Ohioans turn up their noses at what FEMA offers? Unlikely.

We might observe in this regard that Tim Huelskamp loves to get money from astroturfing group FreedomWorks. He loves corporate money, which we might think of as corporate pork when it goes to buy elected officials. But he is opposed to disaster victims getting money from the federal government to which they pay taxes. as he explained on his website in November:

(WASHINGTON) – Only a few mere hours before New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his endorsement of President Obama, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it would cover entirely the costs of public transportation and power restoration in New York following Hurricane Sandy. Under federal law, FEMA typically reimburses only 75 percent and up to 90 percent for major disasters.

“Apparently the price of a high-level, highly-coveted campaign endorsement is $6 billion in taxpayer funds,” Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said. “We have FEMA for a reason, and that is to help Americans to recover from natural disasters across the nation. But it smacks of cronyism that within hours of being granted a special level of federal reimbursement in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg announces his endorsement of President Barack Obama. Americans send their tax dollars to Washington to help their fellow Americans recover from disaster, not to be used as a piggy bank for political paybacks.”

And while Huelskamp is opposed to disaster victims getting relief, he is far from opposed to Kansas farmers getting relief – even rich ones who don’t need it, as the AP revealed in 2011:

Republicans have quietly maneuvered to prevent a House spending bill from chipping away at federal farm subsidies, instead forging ahead with much larger cuts to domestic and international food aid.

The GOP move will probably prevent up to $167 million in cuts in direct payments to farmers, including some of the nation’s wealthiest. …

Meanwhile, the annual bill to pay for food and farm programs next year would cut food aid for low-income mothers and children by $685 million, about 10 percent below this year’s budget.

According to the Environmental Working Group (, Huelskamp’s First District rakes in a ton of federal subsidies, including $891 million in disaster-related funds:

  • $9.61 billion in subsidies 1995-2011.
  • $6.97 billion in commodity subsidies.
  • $1,706,798,452 in crop insurance subsidies.
  • $1.75 billion in conservation subsidies.
  • $891 million in disaster subsidies.
  • Kansas ranking: 6 of 50 States
  • 32 percent of farms in Kansas did not collect subsidy payments – according to USDA.
  • Ten percent collected 67 percent of all subsidies.
  • Amounting to $6.43 billion over 17 years.
  • Top 10%: $32,329 average per year between 1995 and 2011.
  • Bottom 80%: $968 average per year between 1995 and 2011.

Grover Norquist loves him some Tim Huelskamp, naming him in 2005 “Hero of the Taxpayer.” But reported last year that, “Huelskamp’s “Big First” district ranked second in the country, behind only North Dakota’s single district, in total federal agricultural subsidies in 2009, collecting $368 million, according to the Environmental Working Group. Kansas ranked fifth among states that year, drawing $912 million.”

Sounds like Huelskamp’s real genius is not defending tax payers but in getting more for less for his own district by denying it to others.

Disaster pork bad. Farm pork good. Republicans love to spend. They just don’t like Democrats doing the spending. They want to buy the groceries, and when they do, they spend it on their pet projects, like our out of control military industrial complex, or the fossil fuel industry, or to benefit corporate sharks like Mitt Romney, or to rich farmers in their own district who do not really need the money. Disaster victims can, in John Boehner’s words, “go f*ck themselves.”

Photo from the Baltimore Sun

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