OPINION | McHugh David: Congress pits a lot of varying opinions together; but in the end, money reigns
Being a member of the United States Congress is no easy task.
The job requires capitulation and team work with 434 other members which come from a variety of backgrounds, including sex, age, race, political affiliation, ability to process information – well, you get the idea.
Many times, the fight for something that seems so common sense and appropriate for any given area seems unimportant, or doesn’t make sense, to the other members of the house.
Take the current fight over post-disaster response from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). In October, Congressman Garret Graves (R-District 6) testified at the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Graves’ testimony was centered around the problems experienced in his local district, Louisiana, after FEMA arrived, and then with the problems HUD presented – namely a huge gap in time between FEMA’s exit from the area and HUD’s approach to providing disaster recovery funds for victims.
At the time, Graves said that the approach re-victimizes those who suffered from the event. In this case, the Great Flood.
But Graves said the same response occurred in Texas after Harvey, and Florida after Irma. Namely, FEMA would roll in guns blazing, but would require weeks to get their feet firmly planted to provide real assistance. Then, before the work was done and HUD was ready to show their face, FEMA packed their bags and left – quickly.
Two years pass, then HUD begins to release further funding on Duplication of Benefits and then, and only then, begins the process of analyzing the state’s strategy on how it plans to spend just north of $1 billion in a Community Development Block Grant.
Four years after the disaster.
Earlier in November, congress took it step further and made that time gap and the processes that go with FEMA and HUD’s disaster response protocols law by establishing them as ‘disaster response code’ for the two agencies to follow.
Graves delivered an impassioned speech on the house floor, but to no avail as the house moved forward with it’s plan. Unfortunately, the response gap makes sense from a monetary standpoint – the government is subsisting, in large part, on borrowed money.
Credit is at an all-time high among citizens, corporations, and the federal government. When compared to just about any metric – debt-to-revenue; debt-to-income; debt-to-you-name-it the spending is out of hand without the cash to back it up.
But you can’t lend money to yourself.
So the federal government has to walk the fine line that many who are on a thin credit line have to – push bills off or, in this case, push off payments until more money comes in and interest is accrued.
The government will never admit it, but there’s just not enough cash for the feds to pour out money any time a disaster comes through. Behind the guise of ‘inspections,’ ‘analysis,’ and ‘due diligence’ is hidden a means of trying to save money in the midst of ever-growing budgets which cause ever-growing debt.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that those ‘inspections,’ ‘analysis,’ and ‘due diligence’ keep people employed. Want to know why the swamp isn’t drained? Because the swamp isn’t just politicians, it’s bureaucrats too – and they have their ways and processes.
Not including the post office, the federal government employs over two million people. So when citizens and their representatives bring up ‘efficiency’ what bureaucrats hear is ‘they want to remove my job.’ So they fight, and bureaucratic supervisors go to their directors and say ‘Oh yes, we love efficiency – and we’ll be able to get rid of 30 people.’
To which the good Dr. Ben Carson (HUD secretary) says, ‘Oh, well, when you put it that way.’
Meanwhile, as Graves pushes for the disconnect between FEMA and HUD in disasters to be closed, the rest of the house is focused on impeachment proceedings and attention-drawing issues.
The flood was three years ago, after all.
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.