Surprise surprise, it turns out that Eric Cantor (R-Virginia)’s idea to demand offsetting budget cuts for any disaster assistance spending related to Hurricane Irene is not so popular with Republican members of congress whose districts have been hit by floods.
“You can’t put a number on keeping citizens safe,” said [Rep Michael] Grimm [R-NY], who describes himself as a fiscal conservative. “It’s something the federal government must do. For example, if we’re attacked, we wouldn’t hold a budgetary meeting.”
Nan Hayworth, a Republican freshman representing areas north of New York City who won her seat with strong Tea Party support, also sees no connection between disaster aid and spending cuts, according to her spokesman, Nathaniel Sillin.
This stuff really pisses me off. And it’s not hypocrisy. It’s the failure of moral imagination. What it reminds me of, more than anything else, was Sarah Palin talking about her desire to protect programs for special needs children from budget cuts. Afterall, Palin has a special needs child herself. So she sympathizes with children who need extra help and the families that support them. She sees their needs and wants to fight for them. Meanwhile, Reps Grimm and Hayworth see the needs of families burdened by Hurricane Irene. They sympathize and want to fight for them. But what if Rep Hayworth had a son with Down’s Syndrome? Or what if Palin’s best friend lived in a storm-devastated Staten Island district? Their worldviews, it seems, would pivot on an axis. Senator Susan Collins is an advocate of small government and spending restraint, but thinks the federal government should subsidize Saturday delivery of newspapers to small towns. Some of these ideas are nonsense while others have merits. But coming from the mouths of relentless advocates for tax cuts, spending caps, etc., they all constitute a kind of nonsense special pleading.
There’s no federal program where bureaucrats stack up heaping piles of bills and light them on fire. The programs aren’t all good programs. But they do all have real beneficiaries, be they Palin’s special needs families, Grimm’s flood-damaged district, Collins’ small towners who don’t want to pay market price for mail, etc. Whatever statesmanship is, the worldview that says we need giant across the board cuts in programs that benefit real people but also need to exempt all the real people that I happen to know or represent is the reverse of it.