liberal column

Why every American needs to support hurricane victims

Courtesy of Rachel White

Hurricane Harvey dropped several feet of rain on Houston, flooding homes and forcing thousands to evacuate.

No community should be expected to deal with natural disasters on its own. Years from now, the residents of Houston, Miami and other areas will still be dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and they’ll need relief funding to ease that burden.

It’s essential that FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — and disaster relief funding from Congress be readily accessible to those who need them. Unfortunately, relief funding has become increasingly politicized with each natural disaster that hits the United States. Members of Congress could still find reasons to restrict funding to the communities affected by the storms in Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

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When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, current vice president and then-Rep. Mike Pence,R-Ind., said Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt,” according to NPR. After Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast in 2013, Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn — both Republican — voted against a relief bill for New York and New Jersey. They said two-thirds of the funding was for unrelated projects, even though it wasn’t, per The Washington Post. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called out the senators for their vote in a tweet.

Cruz and Cornyn’s hypocrisy of opposing relief funding for New York and New Jersey and years later advocating for it for their own state highlights the question of what role the government should play in the lives of Americans. Is it simply there to maintain order, by maintaining the army and paving the roads? Or, as stated in the preamble of the Constitution, should it support the general welfare of the people?

Americans must be willing to support each other, even if the other is a stranger. If I have to pay a few extra dollars in taxes so parents in Houston can buy food for their kids, that is money I am happy to pay. If a school in Miami needs a grant to rebuild their campus, I’d be okay with a few less military flyovers at football games to make up the difference.

At its heart, the distribution of resources is at the heart of the division between conservatives and liberals — and to some extent the country as a whole. If we cannot help each other in times of disaster, we don’t deserve to embrace each other in times of triumph. Congress must also be held to that ideal.

Cole Jermyn is a senior environmental resource engineering major at SUNY-ESF. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at cdjermyn@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.

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