As Washington Bickers, Bridges Stay Out—Because FEMA Has No Money To Fix Them
Business Insider, 24 September, 2011
Last week, our dysfunctional government started playing another game of political chicken, this time over funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
With no new funding, FEMA will run out of money next week. Democrats want to give FEMA more money to keep paying for disaster relief--regardless of the impact on the deficit. Republicans only want to give FEMA more money if it comes from spending cuts somewhere else.
In the grand scheme, the amount of money at stake is peanuts. But as with the debt-ceiling debate in August, both sides are so dug in that they seem ready to shut the government down rather than give in.
And the argument would just be another ridiculous Washington clown show--if not for the fact that the money FEMA is running out of actually needs to be used to fix stuff that is broken.
Last month, flood waters from Hurricane Irene washed out a small bridge in Cornwall, Connecticut. It wasn't a big bridge--not like the covered bridge in Vermont that got swept away--but it was a bridge that connects Lower River Road to the main drag. And because Lower River Road is a dead-end, all the houses on it have been cut off.
Fixing this bridge is the sort of "shovel ready" project that detractors of government spending always complain we don't have enough of. Fixing it would employ a few folks for a few days, pumping some money into the local economy. It would send some business to nearby restaurants and stores. And, most importantly, it would make the infrastructure of the State of Connecticut in the United States of America look less like that of El Salvador.
But our elected representatives in Washington would rather preen in front of TV cameras than govern. So there's no timetable for fixing the bridge on Lower River Road, or other Irene-related problems in the town of Cornwall, or the massive flood damage in the State of Vermont.
And if our "leaders" keep bickering for another few days, it won't just be FEMA that shuts down--it will be the entire government.
Welcome to life in the new America.