Sen. Bernie Sanders: We're All In This Together

The last I heard, this country was called the United States of America.

What that means to me, and the vast majority of Americans, is that when our fellow citizens in Louisiana suffered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, people on the East Coast were there for them. When the citizens of Joplin, Mo., suffered a deadly tornado, people on the West Coast were there for them. When terrorists attacked on 9/11, we were all there for New York City. That is called being "a nation."

When that bond evaporates, when we tell communities that have suffered natural or man-made disasters that they are "on their own," then we undermine the fabric of our great country.

As we have done time and time again, the U.S. government must be there for disaster relief no matter what part of America is impacted.

I find the argument made by Congressman Eric Cantor, calling for funding offsets as a condition of disaster relief funds, very curious.

Mr. Cantor, one of Wall Street's biggest supporters, helped lead the $800 billion effort to bail out the largest banks, whose recklessness and illegal behavior caused this horrendous recession. No offsets.

At a time when the richest people are becoming richer and corporate profits are soaring, Mr. Cantor has fought to maintain and expand tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthiest people in this country and for the largest corporations. No offsets.

Mr. Cantor has strongly supported spending $160 billion a year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including billions to rebuild those countries. No offsets.

Apparently, only when struggling American communities are devastated by disaster does Mr. Cantor believe it is necessary to have an offset. This absurd logic means that whether it is Hurricane Irene today or any future disaster, we might have to cut nutrition programs, Medicare, Medicaid or education before we can rebuild a devastated community.

As a result of the recession, two wars and tax breaks for the rich that have been unpaid for, this country faces a large deficit. There are fair and responsible ways to address that problem. Ignoring the needs of communities ravaged by disaster is not one of them. We are a larger, better, more united nation than Mr. Cantor imagines us to be.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., represents constituents hard hit by flooding from Hurricane Irene.