Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Do We Really Need a $60 Billion Sandy Relief Bill?

I know some big government Republicans like Peter King and Chris Christie are all upset that the $60 billion Sandy relief bill didn't get voted on in the House, but really, is it even necessary?  As Dan Burton writes in the National Review:

Consider that FEMA already has about $7.8 billion in an emergency relief fund, plus another couple billion it can tap in an emergency-emergency relief fund, and that by the end of November it had already disbursed $664 million of that, mostly to New York. Consider also that nearly $250 million was raised by charities (plus the attendees of my ten-year high school reunion) in the first month after the storm, and that another $50 million or so was raised by the 12-12-12 concert and distributed to more than 160 organizations. This is nothing to sneeze at.
So why all the shouting? Let's be clear: the Sandy "relief" bill is really a Sandy "recovery" bill. It's about the size and shape of the second wave of Sandy spending, which can and should be much more deliberate than the the first wave. The first wave of Sandy spending is already happening.

So FEMA already has billions for just such an emergency and that money is already being disbursed.  Plus, I would think much of the damage is covered by insurance, isn't that what insurance is for?  I understand that some policies don't cover flood damage but still, FEMA does have funding and is disbursing for just this eventuality.  I just don't understand why it's the job of the Federal Government to throw dollars borrowed from China at every area that ever has anything bad happen to it.  And I happen to live in the NY/NJ area and so this aid dollars would help my local economy but even I think its mostly a big waster with little benefit to those who are actually in need.  Check this list out from Senator Tom Coburn's office of what is in the bill:

•$2 million to repair damage to the roofs of museums in Washington, D.C., while many in Hurricane Sandy's path still have no roof over their own heads.
•$150 million for fisheries as far away from the storm's path as Alaska.
•$125 million for the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Watershed Protection program, which helps restore watersheds damaged by wildfires and drought.
•$20 million for a nationwide Water Resources Priorities Study.
•$15 million for NASA facilities, though NASA itself has called its damage from the hurricane 'minimal.'
•$50 million in subsidies for tree planting on private properties.
•$336 million for taxpayer-supported AMTRAK without any detailed plan for how the money will be spent.
$5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers – more than the Corps' annual budget – with no statement of priorities about how to spend the money.
•$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies, without identifying a single way to pay for it.
"All told, 64 percent of the $60.4 billion in 'emergency' spending in this legislation will not be spent for nearly two years.

It seems like the Sandy relief bill can be much much smaller without any of the victims of Sandy being any worse for wear, assuming they even need more appropriations at all from the Feds.

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