Answered call from the Gulf

Even budget hawks welcome federal help with disaster relief. The government serves.

August 31, 2012 

Bobby Jindal, once thought to be a national prospect for the Republican Party from his perch as governor of Louisiana, has faded out of that spotlight for now, though he remains a reliable very conservative politician. You know the type: Slice the budget, enough of these programs for the poor, stop the waste and so forth.

Except when it comes to federal aid for his state in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac, which smacked the Gulf Coast (as a hurricane) and did hundreds of millions in damage, even though much protective progress has been made since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That progress came at a cost in the billions as the federal government shored up levees and installed new pumping systems after flooding that caused shocking damage and scenes of death and destruction that never will be forgotten.

This time out, Jindal complains that the feds haven’t done enough, and he wants more help. He wants more parishes covered by federal relief money and also wants funds for state and local governments, to pay them back for storm preparation. “You’ve got to push the federal bureaucracy,” he said.

Now hold on, governor. What if this runs up the deficit? Will you and other Republicans still be rhetorically rapping President Obama for wasteful spending?

And what about your vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin? As House budget chairman, he tried (and thankfully failed) to cut $10 billion a year out of disaster spending, saying that the government should pay for emergency relief only by cutting the budget elsewhere. So Gov. Jindal, perhaps you wouldn’t mind waiting for relief while Rep. Ryan figures out where he’s going to cut the budget to pay for it.

The attack of Isaac caused anguish for many thousands of Gulf Coast residents, and their fellow citizens do not resist the idea of helping them. The government doesn’t hesitate either, and that is how it should be.

This is the classic example of Republican rhetoric meeting real-life reality. This week in Tampa, Republicans were beating up the government like a bully in a schoolyard, and Ryan’s address Wednesday night emphasized the need to shrink that government. (His main targets are Medicare and Social Security, but emergency aid is right in there.)

Doubtless Ryan and presidential nominee Mitt Romney would like to stay on that theme, but it’s not too easy as Washington is sending hundreds of millions of dollars in various kinds of aid to Louisiana and Mississippi.

For that, and not telling citizens “tough luck, now grab those bootstraps,” is part of the American Way. Helping our fellow Americans in times such as these is good government, not bloated government. Helpful government, not wasted government. And it’s what Republicans and Democrats can agree on, as evidenced by the requests for help from Republican officeholders in the affected states.

The president and his administration are not checking IDs at the door or pleading tight budgets when the calls for help come in. They are answering those calls, as they should.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in a self-serving keynote address earlier in the week, said Republicans are the party of “doing something” instead of “being something.” It would appear that in the aftermath of a devastating storm, Obama is “being” president by “doing something” for the suffering citizens of the Gulf Coast.

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