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GOP shows lack of empathy for storm victims

Published 7:58am Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thank God for Doppler radar and pinpoint satellite forecasts that warned us of severe weather coming our way on April 27. There is no doubt that this saved countless lives on that fateful day.

Unfortunately, thanks to the recent continuing resolution orchestrated by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, it is clear that the Republican party is not committed to doing everything within the power of the federal government to protect Americans from future extreme weather events.

It is precisely those “pinpoint satellite forecasts” that Congress, including every GOP member of Alabama’s delegation, decided were luxuries America cannot afford when it passed the continuing resolution to keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year.

This action eliminated funding to replace the environmental satellites that help make our weather forecasts a reality. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has stated in no uncertain terms that these aging satellites will fail, and our failure to buy new ones this year will cause at least an 18 month gap in coverage.

It seems that Congressional Republicans like Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt and the rest of the Alabama Republican delegation were more interested in protecting the $5.5 billion in subsidies and foregone royalty payments for the big oil companies—which collectively reported a total of more than $30 billion in first quarter profits this year —than they were in spending the $700 million necessary to literally save the lives of their constituents.

We now know that violent weather events themselves have not passed—on the contrary, it is more likely that these events will only continue to grow more intense and more frequent. One need only  to look at the recent catastrophic weather in Joplin, Mo., to see that.

Apparently, the only thing that has passed is our willingness to pay the cost of the accurate predictions that saved innumerable lives across the south earlier this spring.

But not only does the GOP want to handicap our ability to predict violent weather, it wants to curtail our collective power to aid the victims of natural disasters.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) summed up perfectly the spirit of Republican compassion for the victims of natural disasters such as those in our own Tennessee Valley communities when he announced this week that cuts must be made elsewhere before Congress will approve federal funds for disaster relief.

On Monday, Cantor said that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri’s tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else.

According to Rep. Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who admits the Republican plan has its limits, said that this summer FEMA may have to delay grants to cities and counties for rebuilding public infrastructure like schools and sewer systems.

“Under the best-case scenario, the Disaster Relief fund will essentially run dry before the end of the year. That means sometime in mid-to-late summer, FEMA will have to freeze its recovery operations and only fund what they call, “immediate need,” Aderholt said. “That means recovery, rebuilding, and general assistance will stop.”

What needs to come to a stop is not the federal relief for the victims of tornadoes. What needs to come to a stop is the GOP’s behavior of placing the interest of global oil companies and their tax subsidies over the interests of the American citizens that elected them to office.

Ben Richey, Russellville

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