Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dickwads In Congress Hate Their Constituents


John Amato always tells me it's not right to call members of Congress "dickwads," even when they are. He's been blogging for a lot longer than I have and I trusted him and stopped calling them dickwads (except in the most extreme circumstances). But now I find out that Amato had a plan; he's going to be one of them! No, not a dickwad-- a member of Congress! He'd be a lot better than Jane Harman, who currently represents his district. Anyway, now that I understand his ulterior motive for pushing the "no dickwads" line, I now feel free to point out as many instances of congressional dickwaddery as comes to mind.

Let's take Monday evening's vote on H.R.1746, Jim Oberstar's successful attempt to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to reauthorize FEMA's pre-disaster mitigation program. Oberstar's purpose was very straight forward-- to increase the amount guaranteed to each state under the pre-disaster mitigation program; to require the President to award financial assistance under the program on a competitive basis; and, most important, to eliminate the current termination date of September 30, 2009 for the program.

Among the co-sponsors were two very conservative Republicans from Florida, where they understand what a well-run (non-Bush era Banana Republican) FEMA does to make citizens' lives safer. It passed by a landslide, 339-56, all 232 Democrats plus 107 Republicans voting for it. Only 56 crazed anti-government extremists and obstructionists voted against the bill. These are the ones I mean by dickwads-- your Michele Bachmenn (R-MN), Eric Cantors (R-VA), Patty McHenrys (R-NC), Lynn Westmorelands (R-GA), and John Boehners (R-OH).

These are the kooks who simply do not belief government has a legitimate function outside of enriching Republican campaign contributors. Even in a state threatened with earthquakes, we find 5 California extremists-- Tom McClintock, Darrell Issa, Ed Royce, John Campbell and George Radanovich (don't lose faith in the lunacy of Dreier and Rohrabacher; they were out diddling each other in the rest room when the vote was taken... or doing something that kept them off the floor)-- voting against FEMA! Virtually all the lunatic fringe Republicans in the Texas delegation voted no-- I hope you've watched the short film that explains their behavior-- but how do you explain Florida's craziest extremists, Jeff Miller, whose oceanfront Panhandle district is somewhat vulnerable to the kinds of problems FEMA can handle, and Cliff Stearns!

So what makes the 56 lunatic fringe Republicans-- the kind who Arlen Specter said had ruined the GOP when he pulled up stakes and crossed the aisle, permanently, yesterday-- dickwads? Well, I went to Oberstar's House floor speech to see if I could find what these jerks objected to.

• The Pre-Disaster Mitigation program provides technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to reduce injuries, loss of life, and damage to property caused by natural hazards. Examples of mitigation activities include the seismic strengthening of buildings, acquiring repetitively flooded homes, installing shutters and shatter-resistant windows in hurricane-prone areas, and building "safe rooms" in houses and buildings to protect people from high winds.

• Action on this bill today is crucial because, under current law, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program will sunset on September 30, 2009. Therefore, Congress must take quick action to continue this vital program.

• The PDM program reduces the risk of natural hazards, which is where the preponderance of risk is in our country. The devastating ice storms that struck the middle of the United States (including Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kentucky) earlier this year and the floods currently on the Red River in the Midwest are examples of the tragic, real impact of natural disasters that occur in our nation every year. Over the last decade, natural disasters have cost our nation an average of nearly $30 billion per year.

• Mitigation has been proven to save money. Studies by the Congressional Budget Office and National Institute of Building Sciences show that for every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation projects, future losses are reduced by three to four dollars. In 2005, the Mutihazard Mitigation Council, an advisory body of the National Institute of Building Sciences, found "that a dollar spent on mitigation saves society an average of $4." The Council found that flood mitigation measures yield even greater savings. According to a September 2007 CBO report on the reduction in Federal disaster assistance that is likely to result from the PDM program, "on average, future losses are reduced by about $3 (measured in discounted present value) for each $1 spent on those projects, including both federal and nonfederal spending."

• While empirical data is critical, perhaps more telling are real-life mitigation "success stories." One of the best examples of mitigation is the town of Valmeyer, Illinois. The town was devastated by the great flood of 1993. With $45 million in Federal, state, and local funding, the town relocated to bluffs 400 feet above the site of the former town. When faced with floods last year, the residents of that town were out of harm's way, as the Chicago Tribune reported in a story aptly titled "Valmeyer Illinois--Soaked in '93, Town now High and Dry." The June 19, 2008 story quotes an 86-year old resident named Elenora Anderson. Her home was destroyed by the 1993 flood but as she said, "I'm sure glad I don't have to worry now that we're high enough here on the hill."

• This month, we have seen the communities of North Dakota and my home state of Minnesota damaged by floods. Many of these same communities were devastated by floods in 1997. However, because of mitigation after the 1997 floods, the communities face far less risk. Even before this year's floods, mitigation investments had paid off. For example, in Grand Forks, after the 1997 floods, FEMA spent $23 million to acquire vulnerable homes in the flood plain. In 2006, a flood came within two feet of the 1997 flood level, and according to FEMA, the 1997 mitigation investment saved $24.6 million. That investment represents a return of 107 percent after just one flood.

• Another success story comes from Story County, Iowa. There, six homes that had been flooded in 1990, 1993, and 1996 were bought out with $549,662 in FEMA mitigation grants. In 1998 when a flood struck again, FEMA estimates that $541,900 in damages to the homes was avoided. This mitigation project paid for itself in just one flood, and the estimated savings do not include the costs of warning, rescue, or evacuation.

• Mitigation is an investment. It is an investment that not only benefits the Federal Government, but state and local governments as well. Projects funded by the PDM program reduce the damage that would be paid for by the Federal Government and state and local governments in a Major Disaster under the Stafford Act. However, mitigation also reduces the risks from smaller, more frequent, events that state and local governments face every day, as not every storm, fire, or flood warrants the assistance of the Federal Government.

• The Pre-Disaster Mitigation program, through property improvements, takes citizens out of harm's way, by elevating a house, or making sure a hospital can survive a hurricane or earthquake. In doing so, it allows first responders to focus on what is unpredictable in a disaster rather than on what is foreseeable and predictable.

Ahh... that explains why Todd Akin (MO), Marsha Blackburn (TN), John Duncan (TN), John Kline (MN), John Sullivan (OK), and Donald Manzullo (IL) voted "no"; they hate their constituents and want them to suffer!

But, alas, it isn't only Republicans who are dickwads. Just last night before going to collect their daily bribes from lobbyists, Congress voted 234-185 to consider approving the conference report for the budget resolution. Needless to say every single Republican, each having crossed his heart and hoped to die, voted to continue obstructing everything President Obama is trying to do to clean up the mess they caused by rubber stamping Bush's toxic agenda. But the dickwads last night were the 10 Democrats who joined them (Kucinich also voted no, but that's because the budget includes war funding that he opposes... so he doesn't get a dickwad label):
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)
Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Michael Michaud (Blue Dog-ME)
Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID)
Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)
Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)

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At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a Republican, I never thought I would say this but when we had a Republican congress, under Gingrich, and Clinton as Pres they did more then Obama and this horrid congress. From a balanced budget to bipartisan welfare reform at least they did something. Now, many Repblicans didnt like what the Repub congress became, and helped Dems vote them out and many actually voted for Obama. Repubs havnt gone away or died, this next congressional election will show they are looking to throw out the bums and find ones that are more inline with their beliefs. Many Dems i know dont like whats happening now with their congress. Both sides seem to be sick and tired of politicians who smell the same no matter which side they are on. Our leaders are dividing us by saying Repubs are racist and Dems socialist and this does one thing-devides us and keeps their butt in power. I went to a tea-party here in Ga and i honestly was supprised how many Dems there were. And you know, after talking to them, just how much alike we think in many ways. but its the few hot topics that politicians use to seperate us. To hear the news say it, we were all a bunch or racist rednecks.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both Democrates and Republicans are dickwads. Maybe if both sides of the population voted for politicians that put Amarica first and put a platform out that said how they will work together, instead of how they plan to stick it to the other side, we would all be in better shape. Both sides want to throw money at a problem instead of using their brains to solve it once and for all. Its about votes.


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