Will Politicians Make Fiscal Sacrifices to Help Katrina Survivors?

September 14, 2005

With average Americans sacrificing their homes, time and money to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, one wonders how soon can we expect our federal lawmakers to sacrifice as well? Sure, they have, thus far, provided over $60 billion in federal money for hurricane relief. But in a year where the federal deficit is expected to top $300 billion, where will this money come from? When can we expect our federal lawmakers to put aside other spending priorities to help Katrina survivors without ballooning the federal deficit?

There are plenty of places to find savings. A good start would be the pork—er, earmarks—in the recent federal highway bill. John Fund, writing for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, reports that there were over $24 billion in earmarks in the highway bill, including a couple of bridges in Alaska that look a lot less important than food or water for our brethren in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Another good place to look would be the recent energy bill. A host of tax and spending provisions for energy producers—many of which are questionable from a policy perspective, as reported by our own Andrew Chamberlain—are surely less important than the funds needed to educate children whose schools were blown away by the winds of Katrina. Estimates put the price tag on the energy bill as high as $50 billion.

Finally, our lawmakers should look to the federal budget itself, where we still find it necessary to fund things like the Paper Industry Hall of Fame in Wisconsin and the Inner Harmony Foundation and Wellness Center in Pennsylvania. Can anyone honestly maintain that these activities are more important than helping to rebuild New Orleans?

Many of our federal lawmakers will insist that we can have it both ways. “We can pay for the Paper Hall of Fame and pay for food, water and shelter in New Orleans,” they will say. We should not listen to them. Why not help people in need and pay the cost by cutting less important programs? Why shouldn’t the politicians sacrifice along with other Americans?


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