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Public Be Damned

by Sudhama Ranganathan Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2011 at 8:54 AM

With passage of the stop gap measure in the Senate yesterday there may be people in Congress patting themselves on the back and feeling as though they have done something great. And the fact that they actually passed the bill allowing the stopgap spending measure for FEMA to go through is a good thing, surely. But really, this is what they should be doing. It's what should have been happening since January of 2009. Finding middle ground in order to get on with the business of legislating is what we pay them for.

Public Be Damned...
publicbedamned.jpg, image/jpeg, 450x291

They have been behaving as though this was something to be trumpeting. They have been behaving as if this is something to be applauding. They have been acting as if we should be acting as though we owe them a little gratitude for this. They must have missed the orientation describing the job description.

Apparently certain folks in Congress have forgotten that they are elected representatives in a democracy, not our pseudo rulers handing out half stale bread to appease the masses. They forget that when it comes to emergency provisions funds are supposed to be sent because that is, in part, why we pay taxes. In fact if there's one thing agreed upon across the boards it's that taxes should go to emergency services along with infrastructure and defense.

But that apparently was not good enough. The needs of people ravaged by storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, earthquakes and more right here on the home front apparently don't sound alarms in the hearts and souls of certain folks in Congress signaling a need to act. It did not bring forth heroes from within their ranks like Cpl. Dakota Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez (a Latino American – the people Sen Rick Santorum inferred were all illegal immigrants who acted on behalf of people in need putting aside job security and what was best for their own necks. (

Instead, certain folks decided to make this yet another sticking point and actually used the funds going to help people in a time of crisis as political leverage to score points. This was traditionally the sort of legislation both sides agreed was not to be used as leverage to score points in other areas. After all these were the lives of suffering Americans.

These were funds meant to provide help for Americans affected by disaster and unforeseen tragedy. These same people elected those very representatives to office. These same people provided funding from their own pockets to cut these representatives pay checks. These same people provided funding to paid for plane trips home every weekend so these representatives could sip lemonade in the hammocks of their own backyards. These same people never once spearheaded petition drives or anything of the sort to rescind the funds they provide to pay for the healthcare coverage for those elected officials and their families. Not once.

It was not always this way, and there has been a long standing agreement when it came to emergency funds. The agreement passed yesterday in the Senate “violated a longstanding policy of not requiring offsets for emergency-relief spending.” (

Why would anyone? Why use the health and safety of people to squabble aver scraps for political points? How soulless can you get? You could have waited until we are assessing funding for other things, but why gamble with middle-income and lower-income people's lifelines in times of hurt and pain? Why fight tooth and nail so the wealthy corporations that are laying people off and cutting their salaries can keep tax breaks, but not tooth and nail for voters that lost their homes, farms, towns and more?

As one elected official said, “we give blank checks to Iraq and (Afghanistan) and we don’t want to take care of America for Americans. It’s wrong.” ( These same folks have no problems “stabilizing” Iraq and Afghanistan for wealthy oil companies that won't be hiring Americans to work the Iraqi oil fields and wealthy mining concerns that won't be hiring Americans to work the Afghani mines. But those large corporations will be making huge profits and large campaign contributions come the 2012 elections and beyond – that's for sure.

We use tax dollars to make those countries ready for exploitation, though most of those corporations are incorporated in tax havens and don't pay taxes as American companies and as such aren't actually American companies. None of that is in the best interests of American tax payers whose kids will die on battle fields and whose tax dollars will be siphoned to corrupt governments and already billions in American tax dollars have gone missing in both nations.

“When big natural disasters hit, FEMA's disaster-relief fund has always been topped off by supplemental funding. Since 1989, Congress has approved 2 billion in supplemental disaster-assistance funding; about 40% of that was earmarked for the disaster-relief fund. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for example, the disaster fund got an additional billion; in late 2008, the fund received an additional .9 billion to pay for continuing clean-up efforts in the wake of Katrina, plus a string of other natural disasters that hit that year.

“Most supplemental funding has been approved by Congress without identifying required spending offsets elsewhere in the federal budget. But the bill passed by the Republican-led House last week specified that an additional billion in FEMA funding for the current fiscal year be offset by cuts to two energy programs favored by Democrats.

“The House bill also included .65 billion for FEMA for 2012, and included funding for the rest of the government through Nov. 18. The Senate rejected that bill last week as Democrats argued that it violated a longstanding policy of not requiring offsets for emergency-relief spending.” (

Of course this isn't to blame one side alone. They both allowed it and after it was over the other side trumpeted it as a win for everyone. Who's everyone? Surely not us. These folks just started a trend of using national tragedies not associated with security threats as an opportunity to hold the nation hostage for political gain. Apparently certain people did not learn from Iraq and without the significant presence of more parties in Congress we are destined to be used and held hostage again whether on the next bill or two years down the road. The gaping weakness inherent in a two party system has been manifested corporeal.

We have a president that did not keep his word as of yet on major promises, and a field of opponents that seem to be adjusting their positions with each debate, yet the question remains. Why would any elected officials bargain with the lives of people that lost their homes, livelihoods, neighborhoods and in some cases entire communities? A win for everybody? As Kanye West put it, how could they be so heartless?

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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