Socialized disaster relief

The Scranton Times Tribune

"British oppression has effaced the boundaries of the several colonies; the distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."

So declared Patrick Henry in 1774. In doing so, he established the principle that, on certain issues, the clear national interest is more important than any other.

A latter-day Virginian, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, seems to lack that sense of nationhood. His stance that federal disaster relief for the states can come only with budget cuts of equal size not only is remarkably callous, it is, as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders put it, an affront to the very idea of being a nation.

That is not simply speculative rhetoric. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency responds to devastated communities in Vermont, other parts of New England and New York's North Country, it is suspending funds for major work in Joplin, Mo., and other parts of the lower Midwest that were crushed by a record number of tornadoes this spring.

The prospect of a political fight, akin to the needless and damaging political meltdown over raising the debt ceiling, is galling. The notion that the government of the United States of America can't afford to respond to national disasters is ludicrous and should be rejected by all Americans.

Even more preposterous is the notion that disaster relief, as an element of the national debt, must be funded by budget cuts alone. If President Obama were to suggest that disaster relief, as an element of the national debt, had to be funded through repeal of the Bush-era tax cuts alone, one could only imagine the reaction.

National disasters like tornadoes and Hurricane Irene are unavoidable. Man-made catastrophic governance, like that advocated by Mr. Cantor, is inexcusable.