The political battle over who pays for the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy has begun in earnest:
Northeastern lawmakers are preparing to push Congress to approve extra spending to pay for repairing the damage wrought by Sandy, setting up a potential sideshow fight over resources as legislators return to Washington next week to consider spending cuts and tax increases to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
If approved, the extra federal funding would likely pay for work such as repairs to the electric grid, transportation network and housing. Congressional action isn’t urgent, since the Federal Emergency Management Agency has enough money to pay for immediate repairs.
But Washington has traditionally approved extra spending after major disasters such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina to help state and local governments recover. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the storm would add to a $1 billion hole in the state’s budget and estimated the economic cost to the region at $50 billion.
Both of New York’s U. S. senators think that Uncle Sugar should pay for 90% or even 100% of the damages:
Sen. Charles Schumer called the fallout from Hurricane Sandy a “national disaster” and called on a federal government to cover at least 90% of the costs.
“This is one of the biggest disasters to have ever struck this state and even this country,” Schumer said at an afternoon briefing with Gov. Cuomo. “The federal response has to measure that scope and be equal to that that scope.”
“We cannot cut corners. We cannot count nickels and dimes. This isn’t a New York disaster, a Connecticut disaster, a Jersey disaster. It is national disaster. It needs to be treated that way by every member of Congress, by all the members of the executive branch.”
My heart goes out to those who lost their lives or property or were injured by the hurricane. I absolutely think that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut should receive emergency assistance from the federal government. I know it sounds Scrooge-like for me to say it but I can only think of one coherent (non-political) reason that the federal government should pick up the tab for all of the damage caused: unlike the federal government the states must balance their budgets.
The metropolitan area affected is the richest in the United States, with an aggregate GDP higher than all but a dozen or so countries. There is a tremendous difference between Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. New York is one of the richest states in the Union; Louisiana one of the poorest. New York is the richest city in the country; New Orleans is one of the poorest. Much of the damage in New Orleans was arguably caused by the failure of levees that were the responsibility of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers; much of the damage in New York was caused by inadequate sea walls or poorly designed and poorly maintained electrical infrastructure, solely the responsibility of New York.
If “making the rich pay their fair share” means anything at all, doesn’t it mean that rich New Yorkers should be paying for what they consume, i.e. New York? I think that the damage to New York should be paid for by a temporary increase in the New York city earnings tax.
I’m a reasonable person and open to persuasion. Can anyone make a good argument for why people living in rural Arkansas should be paying for infrastructure improvements in Manhattan? I mean an argument that doesn’t also argue that the federal government should be paying my heating bill.
The largest concentration of multimillionaires, those with a net worth of $30 million dollars or more, in the United States is in the vicinity of New York. The state with the largest number of multimillionaires, not the state with the largest percentage but the largest number, is Connecticut. New Jersey is #3. New York is #11. Illinois is down at #18. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut don’t need us to pay for improving their infrastructure. But they’d sure like us to do it. That’s how the rich stay rich, folks.