American Elephants

Helping the Victims of Sandy, U.S. Senate Style. by The Elephant's Child
December 17, 2012, 6:08 pm
Filed under: Politics

We have to do something to help the victims of the Hurricane Sandy Storm Surge, and the U.S. Senate is stepping right up to the cause. Many victims have been homeless, tired, hungry and freezing, and it has been over a month since their lives were swept away in a surge of wind and angry seas.

The ostensible aid for Sandy’s victims makes for a splendid opportunity for the president and his allies to push through some extra spending, sure that it will not receive enough deliberation in a lame duck session.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, following the president’s lead, is exploiting the “disaster” and “emergency” loopholes in the Budget Control Act (BCA) to slip the new spending through. The BCA allows an funds so designated to be spent over and above the $1.04 trillion discretionary spending cap for fiscal year 2013, without offsets.

Remember this is supposed to help the victims of Sandy. Fully $28 billion will go to future disaster mitigation projects on the East Coast. Another $3 billion will go toward repairing or replacing federal assets, like buildings and vehicles damaged during the storm. This is not urgently needed aid to storm victims. There is also a dubious $10.7 billion in emergency spending for public transportation projects. And to top it off there is $17 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds, that states can use as they wish. This casual misdirection of funds would be audacious in normal times, when we are facing a crisis of across the board spending cuts since lawmakers cannot seem to agree on anything.

Much of this is wish-list spending that would not survive today’s budget realities. The president requested $32 million for Amtrack, the Senate wants to give them $336 million. Amtrack received roughly $1.4 billion in federal subsidies for 2012. The Senate bill will shore up their operating losses, expand its rail capacity and “help it prepare for future disasters.”

The legislation to provide $60 billion to areas affected by Sandy, includes $100 million for the federal Head Start day care program. Funds will be appropriated to repair 265 Head Start Centers— that’s $377,358 per Head Start Center.

Shall be available through September 30, 2014 for activities to assist affected Head Start agencies, including technical assistance, costs of Head Start services (including supportive services for children and families, and provision of mental health services for children affected by Hurricane Sandy), and costs of renovating, repairing, or rebuilding those Head Start facilities damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

Head Start was founded in 1965 as a small summer program. Taxpayers have spent more than $160 billion on the program, yet every study of the  program has found that any benefits of participating in the program have completely disappeared by first grade, and it had a negative effect on mathematical ability. Head Start was intended to help disadvantaged children to catch up to children living in more fortunate circumstances. Doesn’t work. But Congressional Democrats won’t give it up. It is a good program because it means well, and Democrats are caring people.

The whole thing demonstrates once again, how little concern exists in the halls of Congress for the fiscal crisis, the debt bomb, the fiscal cliff. If they need more money, they can just raise taxes, borrow more money, or print more. What’s the big deal?

And this was all supposed to help those cold, hungry people who have lost everything in a storm deluge.


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