Playing Politics with Natural Disasters

Posted on September 5, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

With Isaac finally out of the headlines having inundated Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, it looks like the country, for the most part, dodged a bullet, though the final price tag of the storm’s destructive impact has yet to fully tallied.

Unlike our hapless response in 2005 to Hurricane Katrina that brought untold destruction to New Orleans and vast swathes of the Gulf Coast, the systems designed to keep Americans safe in the face of a natural disaster were in place and working when Isaac blew in, but will the same be true the next time?

Knowing that the federal government is ready to respond efficiently and effectively to a natural or man-made disaster should be a given. Our lives and the lives of our loved ones depend on that certainty. Unfortunately, when America’s safety becomes entangled in partisan politics, we are all put at unnecessary risk.

Last summer during the contentious debt-ceiling negotiations the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, the agency responsible for emergency response, was held hostage by an astounding number of federal lawmakers who were demanding that disaster relief spending be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.  Moreover, many of these same congressional members took their budget cutting hatchets to the very federal agencies that monitor storms like Isaac, slashing hundreds of millions from the budgets of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association and the National Weather Service.

Fortunately, a debt-ceiling deal was reached that included an agreement to fund disaster relief above the federal spending limit, which meant money was available—about $1.5 billion—to respond to Isaac.  However, it is clear, with the calls for dramatic spending reductions to disaster relief continuing as strong as ever, this debate will soon be revisited.

It will behoove us all to remember that hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods don’t determine their destructive paths on whether or not a state is red, blue, or purple. An underfunded FEMA, NOAA, or National Weather Service hurts Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. Making sure that our government is ready and able to respond to any natural or man-made disaster must be a national priority that supersedes partisan politics.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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2 Responses to “Playing Politics with Natural Disasters”

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[…] started with the threat of being washed out by Tropical Storm Isaac, ended with the memory of a man talking to an empty chair. Overall, we’re not sure the convention […]

How right you are. Most natural disaster responses are still bi-partisan. It is unfortunate that Katrina was the exception, a great chance to take a shot at a sitting president who should have been more proactive.


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