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Negotiating disasters

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By Optic Editorial Board

Flooding is the latest in a line of weather catastrophies that have struck the U.S. this year. Hurricane Irene — which did huge damage to New England even after it had downgraded to tropical storm status — has created yet another disaster, with cost estimates in the billions of dollars.

Then there were the wildfires — Arizona and New Mexico both had the largest in their recorded histories, and Texas is still burning from a summer of hellacious temperatures and incredible drought. And Joplin is still recovering from one of the most destructive tornadoes ever, and will be recovering for years to come.

It’s expensive to respond to these disasters, and getting the funds to help these areas recover may become a much more difficult task now, since the onset of a new way of dealmaking in Washington.

Last week, the White House told Congress that more than $5 billion in additional disaster relief money is needed, not counting the damage from Irene. In response, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, said additional disaster funding should be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget.

Sound familiar? In July, the GOP-dominated House held America’s credit rating hostage by saying budget cuts had to come before they’d agree to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. They threatened to let the U.S. default on its debts if they didn’t get their way.

Now, are they going to hold emergency relief efforts hostage in the same manner? Are they going to demand cuts to government programs or else they won’t pay for assistance programs in disaster-ravaged areas of the U.S.? Could they actually be so cruel?

This is no way to run a country, especially the richest nation on earth.

Reason, and humanitarian outreach, must prevail over those who are unwilling to compromise on their draconian ideology.

We’ve said it before: Yes, the federal budget deficit must be reined in, but not by spending cuts alone. Washington must also raise revenue with some realistic, reasonable and necessary tax increases on people and corporations that can afford the hit. Even billionaries like Warren Buffett say so.

Hopefully, the GOP will find its heart before refusing to fund disaster relief. If not, we suppose there would be a bright side to it. Maybe then Americans will see just how calloused the Republicans have become, and oust the worst of them in the next election.