By Teresa Welsh |
It goes without saying that all of our energy must be focused on helping survivors and consoling those Oklahomans who've lost loved ones. The tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., on Monday forever altered the lives of those impacted. All Americans send their thoughts and prayers.
It makes a debate on money seem somewhat callous, but, with a federal government in permanent deficit spending mode, we must discuss how best to help Moore recover from such a devastating event. On the heels of Hurricane Sandy and the $60 billion appropriation made to help Connecticut, New Jersey and New York recover, Oklahomans want to know how much money they will get to rebuild.
First, the reality is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency already has roughly $11.6 billion sitting in its Disaster Relief Fund. The odds that the uninsured damages in Moore will exceed that amount are highly unlikely. That means a debate on cutting funds elsewhere to fund Moore aid is purely theoretical.
Next, we also must ask the tough question: Should the federal government be the primary funding source for Moore's recovery? Yes, the tornado was catastrophic for Moore and Oklahoma, but, unlike Hurricane Sandy's impact on key ports, financial sectors and other infrastructure, the tornado's impact likely won't have national consequences.
Don't get me wrong – volunteer efforts and funds donated across the nation are vital to Moore, but, without broader national implications economically or strategically, the justification for federal assistance to Moore can be used for most natural disasters across America regardless of size.
As I've outlined here, given the fiscal crisis in Washington, we must conserve our federal resources for events that are nationally catastrophic. It is a given that any event that involves the loss of life and property will be catastrophic for those impacted. In the majority of those cases, however, states and local governments should be the primary sources of funding recovery efforts.
That said, if the federal government decides that the Moore tornado meets this higher threshold and the cost exceeds the current Disaster Relief Fund balance, then additional appropriations should be offset by cuts elsewhere. Otherwise, we continue the irresponsible practice of deficit spending that has driven us into the fiscal crisis in which we currently find ourselves.
We must help our fellow Americans, but we need to do so in a fiscally sound way.
About Matt Mayer Visiting Fellow in the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation
Daniel J. Weiss Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund
Barry Goodwin Professor of Economics and Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University
Tom Coburn Republican Senator from Oklahoma