Just how powerful was Superstorm Sandy? Aside from the $33 billion in damage it did to the greater New York City and Long Island regions, it was powerful enough to bring Democrats and Republicans together in their quest for massive amounts of federal aid. That’s pretty darned powerful, as anyone who’s observed this nation’s recent political history would likely agree.
But everyone — including members on both sides of the aisle in Congress — should also agree that when it comes to a natural disaster like this, one that was nobody’s fault except Mother Nature’s, it’s government’s proper role to help the victims get back on their feet.
We know the federal government spends more money than it should. That it could spend more carefully and waste less. But debt or no debt, an emergency of this magnitude is no time to be fussing. The feds are the only ones with the deep enough pockets to do what has to be done to put roofs back over people’s heads, to make them safe again, to rebuild their roads and bridges and subway stations, and ensure that relative normalcy can return. The states don’t have the kind of money needed to do that, and borrowing it would require gargantuan tax hikes.
The feds have the capacity to spread out the pain, and should do so, among 315 million people. If they have to raise taxes, so be it. But better for the feds to raise taxes a little to pay for a rescue like this than for individual states to do so a lot. And the work has to be done, the money has to be borrowed.
At some point most, if not all, states suffer disasters like this — whether from hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, wildfires or blizzards. That’s when it should be abundantly clear, as Republican Rep. Peter King said, “we’re not Republicans and Democrats, we’re all New Yorkers.” And, to carry his assessment a step further, we’re not New Yorkers, we’re all Americans.