Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When ‘big government’ foes need ‘big government’

Express Staff Writer

Tornadoes that spun across Southern states chewing everything in their path into splinters and leaving a historic number of dead, followed by heartbreaking floods, created a striking irony along the way.

Most of the hardest-hit states are hotbeds of hostility toward "big government." Now they find themselves in dire need of some help that only big government can provide.

More incongruity: Public officials who've been harsh critics of President Obama—in Southern states, especially, where Obama's name is widely scorned—are singing his praises for triggering quick and decisive Washington response and his prompt visit to see the destruction.

This is not to mock the contradictions. However, in the heat of partisan political name-calling, politicians stirring up voters with "big government" as a punch line for hisses might find themselves eating their words.

After the tornadoes, major federal agencies deployed their people across the swath of destruction finding about victims' needs. One particular federal outfit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has found new friends among those who made it a punching bag. Now big government agencies are filling the desperate need to rebuild schools and other public buildings, roads and utility systems and to provide emergency loans and credit.

Here's another sad fact out of that horror: According to, Alabama's congressional delegation voted against funds for new weather satellites that would make tornado forecasting quicker and more accurate. Alabama suffered more deaths and destruction than any other state.

The South's weather calamities might also be another telltale indicator of climate change wrought by global warming, which is widely denied by Southern politicians.

Once Congress gets over its foolish "big government" fetish, a colossal national reconstruction project that has so long been ignored awaits—rebuilding the crumbling American infrastructure of public facilities and systems. This will be a $2.2 trillion, five-year undertaking, comparable only to President Eisenhower's launch of the interstate highway system.

States don't have the engineering know-how or financial resources. Only a big government can do it. And do it Washington must. It should be Job No. 1 after Afghanistan and Iraq military operations are drawn down and billions of war dollars can be redirected.

U.S. dollars rebuild countries all over the world stricken by disasters and economic ruin, while U.S. roads, schools, waterworks, dams, bridges and other systems have become outmoded or functionally dangerous. Worse, competitor nations—China, Brazil and India—are racing ahead with new high-speed rail and modern highways, with investments totaling trillions.

Aren't America's decaying public facilities as needy and deserving of Washington aid as foreign countries?

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