While delivering the GOP response to President Obama’s address last night, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) attempted to discredit the recently signed economic recovery package by highlighting provisions that he said don’t “make sense.” Jindal complained about a provision providing funding for the federal government to purchase energy efficient automobiles, as well as a provision (that doesn’t actually exist) providing funding for a rail line “from Las Vegas to Disney Land.” But most ironic was Jindal’s attempt to mock the inclusion of funding allowing for, in Jindal’s words, “something called ‘volcano monitoring’”:
JINDAL: While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government. $8 billion for high speed rail projects such as magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disney Land. And $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’
Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.
The provision that Jindal is referring to provides $140 million to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for, among other things, “equipment replacement and upgrades including stream gauges, and seismic and volcano monitoring systems.” From the bill:
As Scientific American notes, the USGS is tasked with reducing the “‘vulnerability of the people and areas most at risk from natural hazards,’ including volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires.” Given that Jindal lived through Hurricane Katrina and witnessed first hand President Bush’s utterly unprepared response, Jindal should be hesitant to mock disaster preparedness funding.
Conservatives often bristle at public sector solutions to problems that they believe would be better addressed by the private sector. But, as Paul Krugman notes, both Republicans and Democrats have traditionally agreed that supplying public goods like disaster preparedness is “the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.” Not any more, apparently. Krugman concludes, “Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny.”