The trouble with agendas is that real life can get in the way.
Lately, the sky in Southwest Colorado has ranged from dull brownish-blue to just plain brown as catastrophic wildfires in states to the west and north have burned more than a million acres. The map of fires across those states is impressive and alarming. Earlier this week, a fire in Oregon jumped the Columbia River, which until then had seemed like a pretty definitive firebreak.
Texas and Louisiana are mopping up after Hurricane Harvey. Irma has also shown her strength in the Caribbean and the danger and destruction is still working its way up through the Florida Keys and towards the mainland.
Right now, Colorado seems like a pretty good place to be. This year, the disasters have not struck here. Next year, they could, and it would be nice to know that the federal government has adequately funded firefighting forces and other emergency responses.
The Trump administration has put together a package of emergency funding for Harvey, and Americans have been generous, but many billions of dollars more, over many years, will be necessary for full recovery.
And that’s just for one hurricane.
Meanwhile, though, until now and the surprising compromise the president arrived at with Democrats on recovery funding, the budget and debt ceiling, Congress has failed to work together to accomplish much of anything, precisely when many Americans need their government to function well.
Small government is a worthwhile goal, but when big disasters strike, the choice is to spend big bucks or doom parts of the country to prolonged and perhaps permanent distress.
As part of budget discussions, it’s time to acknowledge that disasters happen, and the federal government is responsible for responding, every single year. Lately, they’re happening with more frequency. Paying for research to figure out how best to prepare, rather than defunding it, would be a good plan, and budgeting every year for disasters – not always of this scale, we hope – is financially responsible.
Firefighting resources have to be bolstered, not cut. The Federal Emergency Management Agency must be prepared for concurrent disasters that are beyond the scope of local resources. Climate research must continue. Congress and the president have to get this right,
It shouldn’t be political. It’s just common sense, especially when lives are at stake.