As the Senate prepares to pass the Sandy Hurricane Relief Act for $50.5 Billion, it’s worthwhile to consider this piece of legislation within the bigger picture of looming the fiscal crises. No one will deny that those citizens who were affected by this catastrophic and legendary storm deserve help. However, the bill perfectly encapsulates the dysfunction of our Congress. In merely a few short weeks, Congress has managed to figure out how to fritter away a year’s worth of revenue that was raised — after many months of wrangling and negotiations.
How long did our elected officials argue and argue over tax rates, spending cuts, revenue, and debt? Finally, with much hand wringing, frustration, wheeling and dealing, Congress actually voted on something. By raising the tax rates on the wealthiest citizens — a longtime objective of Obama’s — they finally had something tangible to soak the rich so the the rich could “pay their fair share”. This, we were told, was absolutely necessary to raise revenue because of our deficit, despite the likelihood that such a measure would have negative repercussions in the economy; it will provide the government with $600 Billion in revenue over ten years.
And then there was Sandy Relief, a bill with good intentions which metastasized into the monstrosity that is before us. It is a bill that is half-pork barrel spending and half-relief spending; a bill with spending not offset by equal and opposite cuts. This measure fully adds $50.5 Billion dollars to the deficit, after the House Republicans defeated the Mulvaney amendment “that would have forced the government to pay for a $17 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill with a 1.63 percent cut to discretionary programs”.
Sandy is more than just relief. She includes items such as “$500 million for weather forecasting and to help create an ocean zoning plan–the later one of Obama’s pet projects. Also included are $10 million for FBI salaries $2 billion for road construction across the country, as well as funding for the Head Start program, roof repairs at the Smithsonian, and $150 million for fisheries across the country.”
This has nothing to do with whether the non-Sandy provisions of the bill are worthwhile or not. But there is no reason why those extra provisions shouldn’t be dealt with on the same playing field as all the other potentially important uses of our federal tax dollars. Why should these particular spending measure bypass the intense oversight and scrutiny that every expenditure in the budget requires of our legislators so that we don’t overspend our revenue?
When the Senate votes, in about 15 minutes of time they will undo the months of work in Congress that included some of the most vile infighting ever witnessed in modern politics. The roughly $600 Billion dollars over ten years that the Democrats had to have from the rich — which boils down to about $60 Billion in revenue a year — will be wiped out by the Sandy Bill. By voting up the $50.5 Billion in “Aid” that was crafted, Congress will spend nearly the entire sum of a year’s worth of revenue from the rich’s “fair share” , with most of it going to fund more government , in one fell swoop.
Sandy exposes some of the more odious truths about the majority of our Congress: 1) Not enough are serious about reducing our deficits; and 2) Raising taxes on the wealthiest citizens in order to reduce our deficit is a sham. The Sandy Bill in its current form is the epitome of why our government is in dire fiscal straits.