Small government limits disaster responses

G. Elliott Morris

Americans would be well served to remember that it was not just Kanye West who criticized President George W. Bush over his weak response to Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, many politicians on the right also flanked Bush (as he vacationed at his Texas ranch) and his administration for failing to respond to the devastating damage from the storm.

Now, as the Pelican State faces massive cleanup from flooding and Florida has its calls for Zika support rejected by Congress, small-government Republicans are rearing their hypocritical heads once again.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has been an advocate for simplifying the tax code and decreasing the size of government, repeatedly criticized President Obama for not immediately visiting flood-ravaged Baton Rouge. Although Trump is not calling on the president to increase disaster relief funds or direct federal resources, the politicized request of a presidential visit underscores hypocrisy that is clear in other segments of the party. Why should the president interject federal resources only when it is expedient, convenient and politically beneficial for state politicians?

Republican congressmen from Louisiana also penned a letter calling on Obama to support flooded regions of Louisiana, this time asking for a disaster declaration. The letter was published by Sen. Bill Cassidy, who voted against relief for Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Cassidy has also voted against research on climate change, which is especially disastrous to his state: A recent report states that the equivalent of one football field of land there is lost to rising tides every hour.

The Louisiana Senator is not the only elected official from the state who repeatedly voted against the real interests of his constituents.  Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana’s first congressional district, who also signed the letter, is a climate change skeptic as well. Sen. David Vitter and Reps. Charles Boustany, John Fleming, Cedric Richmond, Ralph Abraham and Garret Graves also signed Sen. Cassidy’s request.

On the Atlantic coast, Florida is facing a healthcare crisis as funding for Zika relief runs dry. Congress, which will not gavel in a session until Sept. 5, failed to pass a relief bill over partisan quarrels. Republicans continued their shameless crusade against women’s health and pork-barreled the $1.1 billion relief bill with measures that would defund Planned Parenthood, bating Democrats to vote against the spending. Many members of the Grand Old Party — which has small-government provisions in its platform — refuse to acknowledge their own hypocrisy and fail to serve their fellow Americans.

Although prevalent, hypocrisy from public officials and figures is nothing new. In July, I wrote about Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick breaking his promise of small government by ordering school districts to ignore the federal government’s directive regarding transgender students. These are only the latest in developments that exhibit the failure of America’s major legislature to provide necessary services for embattled citizens. The outright hypocrisy of many legislators is disadvantageous in and of itself; elected officials often need to appear reliable and representative to stay in power.

The real effects of this perpetual misrepresentation (both of their constituencies and of their own policies), however, are yet to be determined — although I expect symptoms may include punishing incumbent elected officials and disenfranchisement of those not benefiting from the political process.

Whatever the consequences may be, both parties should shift towards making promises they can actually keep; if Republicans acknowledge that big government can offer flood and disease relief, among other support, perhaps they should cease their anti-big government campaign. Similarly, Democratic politicians may need to re-evaluate their means of helping those less fortunate if they can’t keep their promises — even if their failure to do so is a product of that original GOP hypocrisy. Compromise, as well as consistency, could be key to good policy-making in the future.

Morris is a government junior from Port Aransas. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @gelliottmorris.