Thursday, September 01, 2011

National Problems Need National Solutions

Natural and man-made disasters have far ranging impacts on regional and national economies. When the Mississippi River floods in the Midwest, it doesn't just affect people in Iowa and Missouri and Illinois, it affects food prices nationwide; it affects economic and financial health, as insurers and banks have to adjust for losses; it affects the wider economy, because people living in shelters and eating donated food and working to rebuild their lives participate in the economy in very different ways that don't translate well on Wall Street; local and state governments have to spend money on the rescue and recovery even as they are losing the revenue streams that pay for rescue and recovery.

That's the kind of thing that happens with every flood, hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, volcano, tsunami, blizzard, or tornado outbreak. Those events cost in lives and property and economic dynamism, and no community can volunteer or charity its way out of a billion dollar weather disaster.

And, no, "cutting taxes" to allow "people to give more to charity" will not make up the shortfall. Charity and volunteer efforts are essential to our national society, and are vital to address many long-term recovery efforts. But also vital are the professionals on the front lines, the planners, the folks working logistics, the folks working operations, and the folks working communications. Also essential are the community dollars needed, even into debt if need be, to replace lost infrastructure and homes and businesses to restore the dynamism lost to regional and national commerce. All that costs some damn money.

So color me disheartened to listen to the national Democratic leadership dithering in public over the scheduling of the President's speech on jobs. Does he interrupt the GOP debate, or does he interrupt the NFL game? At the same time, the Republican leadership, inspired by Suicidal Libertarianism, is picking now to politicize disaster response and recovery funding. Now, when this year is turning out to have the most billion+ dollar weather disasters in history.

This is why Republicans and Suicidal Libertarians are dominating our politics these days, they're willing to say they won't fund disaster rescue and recovery efforts while the bodies are still drifting in the flood water, and no one is around to make them pay a political price for it.

I used to think about how welcome it would be to actually have them saying what they really thought, because our nation has had these debates before. Not only that, progress won those debates resoundingly and sent the Suicidal Libertarians into their caves for generations. But back when I thought such things, they were contingent on actually hearing someone take up the progress prone point of view - that National Problems Must Have National Solutions, and that the cost is something everyone in society must bear. It sure doesn't feel like we have much of that, these days.

Rant over. I'm going to go look at these incredible cloud formations in the sky. There is a tropical depression forming in the Gulf right now, after all.


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