Republicans decry government spending until floodwaters reach their doorsteps | The report
Ronald Reagan, the 1980s epitome of ruthless budget cut or sanity – depending on which political party one belonged to – summed up the Republican vision of government in one oft-quoted sentence.
“I’ve always thought the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” says the former president at a press conference in August 1986.
The remark has been repeated by small-government conservatives as a concise explanation of Americans’ rejection of government bureaucracy, big spending and interference. The federal government in particular, conservative Republicans have long argued, is not the answer to people’s problems, especially if the answer includes the spending of taxpayers’ money.
But in fact, Reagan was simply explaining why he was doing the opposite. With American farmers struggling, the Reagan administration decided to provide price support and other forms of assistance to help them. The agricultural industry had to be independent, Reagan said, but until that happened the government had to “act with compassion and responsibility”.
The ideological path to reducing the role and scope of government tends to detour when disaster strikes, as it has repeatedly during President Joe Biden’s tenure. COVID-19, wildfires and, most recently, two consecutive devastating hurricanes have led Biden to push several massive spending programs through Congress. Separate aid to hurricane-affected areas is also on the way.
And yet prominent Republicans have not shrugged off criticism of big spenders as they seek to take control of both houses of Congress next month and shut down cash flow. They criticized Biden for his spending and voted against bills including disaster relief – while demanding money for their states and districts.
That’s not to say Republicans are against spending taxpayers’ money on their priorities. The Strategic Defense Initiative, better known as Star Wars, was a favorite project of the Reagan administration and cost $30 billion before it was scrapped. The last two budgets presented by Donald Trump included a total of $7 billion for his favorite wall along the US-Mexico border.
“Cognitive dissonance. There’s a lot of that,” says Michael Binder, a political science professor and pollster at the University of North Florida, explaining how Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, was able to vote against the government. helping victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 in the Northeast when he was a congressman, but is now asking for help from the federal government so his state can recover from Hurricane Ian.
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The fact that others are getting help (the Sandy aid package passed anyway, despite some GOP opposition) justifies the demand from lawmakers like Republican DeSantis, Binder says.
“He can look at this and say, ‘I have to get mine. It may come from a bloated federal government, but everyone is getting help. I want mine too,” Binder says.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, for example, recently voted against a spending package that included a provision freeing up $18.8 billion for federal disaster assistance that would help his disaster-ravaged home state. hurricane Ian. The following week, Gaetz made a cash request on Twitter.
“Dear Congress, on behalf of my fellow Florida folks who are in dire need of help. … Just send us half of what you sent to Ukraine. Signed, your fellow Americans,” Gaetz wrote.
His Sunshine State colleague and fellow Republican, Sen. Rick Scott, also voted against the broader spending bill. But Scott, in a statement this week, pleaded with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, to reconvene the Senate to push through a “strong additional Hurricane Ian relief package.” , saying he will “do everything in my power as a united party”. United States Senator” to make this happen.
Florida’s top Republican in the chamber, Sen. Marco Rubio, was not present for the larger spending package — an ongoing resolution that has kept the government running — but said he would reject any spending package. funding including spending on “pig projects” and “other things.”
“We are able in this country, in Congress, to vote disaster relief for the key – after key events like this without using it as a vehicle or a mechanism for people to load it with things unrelated to the storm,” Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Rubio voted against an aid package for Sandy victims – for the same reason, saying he wanted a “clean” measure that didn’t include unnecessary spending. (Rubio voted for a more targeted spending package for Sandy victims.)
But don’t expect Florida voters to punish GOP lawmakers at the polls, experts say.
After all, the aid was accepted despite GOP “no” votes, and “if people finally get their checks, it doesn’t matter,” says Neil Malhotra, a political economist at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“In times of crisis, such as following a hurricane or other natural disaster, there is no demand for ‘small government’.”
As for accepting money from an administration that GOPers accuse of overspending, “historically, we’ve seen hurricane relief sort of fall into a different category than social spending or disaster relief spending. student debt,” says Malhotra. While a hurricane is an “act of God,” when it comes to other financial needs like student loan debt, “there is a belief that you caused this situation for yourself.”
And disasters tend to blur ideological divides on government spending, says John Halpin, co-director of politics and elections at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
“Despite longstanding concerns about corruption and mismanagement, Americans in all walks of life expect and want the federal government to step in to meet important national needs,” Halpin said. “In times of crisis, such as following a hurricane or other natural disaster, there is no demand for ‘small government’.”
Democrats point out, however, that this isn’t just emergency aid for natural disasters that Republicans opposed and then happily agreed to. The party of the majority in danger has even created a website where they list Republicans who voted against the US bailout, bipartisan infrastructure law or government spending bills – then sent out press releases touting the local projects those bills included for their districts.
And while Republicans attack Biden and vulnerable Democrats for the party’s costly legislation, Biden has sought to turn this Reaganesque argument against them.
Scott, who also heads the Republican National Senate Committee, wrote a policy memo in which he said all government programs should be reapproved every five years to prevent spending from spiraling out of control.
Biden waved that document at events to accuse Scott of putting popular programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block.
But any aid given to Florida is likely to help any Sunshine State police officer who asked for it — regardless of their voting record, says Jeffery Jenkins, professor of public policy, political science and law at the University of California du South.
“People have short memories when it comes to this stuff,” Jenkins says. “You can talk about ideology all you want. But when the hurricane hits and you’re underwater, literally, you need help. You don’t care where it’s coming from.”
Florida lawmakers, it seems, are ready to take the money – even if it comes from the dreaded government.