The GOP’s priorities

repealOK, so it’s the new Congress and there’s a lot of really urgent work to do. So, what do Michele Bachmann and her cronies do first? They try for the 34th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

No matter that they’ve tried 33 times and haven’t been able to succeed (thank God). No matter that they have fewer votes now than they did before the election. No matter that the American people want Congress to work on more urgent problems like getting aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy or renewing the Violence Against Women Act. Nope, they have to make the statement that they’re just a bunch of spoiled, selfish children.

Apparently, 33 attempts at repeal using 80 hours of House time and costing taxpayers $43 million wasn’t enough for Bachmann et al; they have to keep trying to take away health reform.

Victims of the Sandy have waited 10 weeks now for some help and this hopelessly tired effort to repeal health care reform takes precedence. And this comes after House Speaker John Boehner shut down the 113th Congress without allowing a vote on relief for the victims of one of the worst storms in American history.

And when the House finally did take up relief for the people in New York and New Jersey who have lost everything, they didn’t vote on the entire $60 billion package; they only passed $9.7 billion, which allows FEMA to try to find housing for people who lost everything more than two months ago.

And dozens in the GOP even voted against that.

So, what will happen when the rest of the funding comes up for a vote on Jan. 15? Republicans will act as though Sandy victims somehow brought all this upon themselves and therefore don’t deserve the help.

That’s right, the victims of Hurricane Sandy are just a bunch of moochers looking for a free ride from the government, but their corporate friends deserve every break, even if it costs American lives.

And if votes mean priorities, the safety of women means nothing. The renewal of the Violence Against Women Act was never even brought up for a vote and one doesn’t appear likely anytime soon.

After all, we women are usually asking for it when we get beaten up and raped. We were sassy or we dressed wrong or otherwise provoked the poor men in our lives who aren’t supposed to control their own violent urges.

You knew he would get furious if you walked in front of the TV or if the baby cried when he was trying to nap. He told you a million times dinner has to be on the table by 6 and here it is 6:15. And where the hell did you drive the car? It has 100 more miles on it than it should. You know that pisses him off.

And women are fair game to satisfy a man’s sexual urges if they wear anything attractive or if they allow a man to buy them a drink or to kiss them. These girls were called “prick tease” when I was younger because they didn’t understand that boys have to go all the way if they start. They deserved what they got and apparently still do. Apparently, just crossing a horny man’s path is reason enough, and we ought to know better.

So, like the victims of Sandy — more than the victims of Sandy — we women get what we ask for, so we don’t need no stinkin’ laws to protect us.

Why the hell does the US House of Representatives have to spend good time and money on our safety when there’s health reform to repeal?

How’s that for priorities?


The politics of disaster

This man is not looking for canned peas, Mitt.

Mitt Romney isn’t backing off. He said last spring that the federal government shouldn’t be helping people in cases of disaster. He said it’s immoral, and that he would privatize FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Instead of standing firm in the aftermath of the worst storm ever to hit the Northeast, he just refused to answer questions.

He organized a “disaster relief” rally, where he sold anti-Obama T-shirts and “collected” canned foods for the people affected by the storm (Turns out he bought $5,000 worth of supplies and had people”donate” it back to him). He told the story of how he once helped clean up a football field after a storm, as though that could be compared to what people all along the Northeast Coast are facing. It would have been better if he had just stayed home.

Now, the American Red Cross doesn’t accept clothing or canned goods in the aftermath of a major disaster because people who have just lost everything have no way to open that can of Beanie Weenies, no way to heat it up and no utensils to eat it with.

I have covered major floods and other disasters. I have volunteered to go and help. Believe me, people who came into the Hearts With Hands camp in Ocean Springs, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina weren’t looking for canned goods.

We assembled boxes with cleaning supplies and toiletries — and a Bible. Normally, I wouldn’t think it appropriate to evangelize under these circumstances, but we were in the Bible Belt and the Bible was the first thing most people picked out of the box.

We gave out cases and cases of bottled water, tons of diapers and wipes, towels and washcloths, but no canned food.

We had a mountain of old clothes that we couldn’t use and we had boxes and boxes of canned food that people just didn’t need or want.

When your home has been destroyed and you’re in a shelter — a high school gymnasium or a church hall — you don’t need canned sloppy joe mix; you need counseling, you need assurance that things will return to normal one day. You need a hot shower and a warm bed. You would like some privacy, although that’s not possible.

These shelters are supplied by food stores, government surplus food and restaurants. They have institutional kitchens where meals for hundreds of people can be prepared. Almost always, someone who owns a demolished restaurant staffs the kitchen.

Now, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is saying the government should be careful how it spends disaster relief money because people will just go out and buy Gucci bags with it. He claims that’s what happened along the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

I was on the Gulf Coast after Katrina, and I didn’t see any Gucci bags. I did see people being shortchanged by insurance companies, paid pennies on the dollar for the value of their homes so they couldn’t afford to rebuild. Once the land was abandoned, the banks sold it to developers who wanted to build resorts. That’s how the private sector works.

I saw block after block of disaster like I never imagined could happen. I saw x’s on what was left of door frames or concrete steps. In the lower right, if there was a number, it signified the number of bodies found there. I spoke to a school teacher who had driven by the houses of her students and found numbers in the x’s on two of them.

Disaster relief should not be political. This has to be about getting people back on their feet, about helping families get over the trauma and rebuilding devastated communities.

Party shouldn’t matter when people are in need.

Someone asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie whether he would invite Mitt Romney to come tour the disaster area, and Christie, a Republican, shot back that this was not the time for political showmanship. He is worried about the 2 million people in his state who don’t have power and the tens of thousands whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. He’s worried about the gas leaks that could cause massive explosions and fires.

Then he did something that really surprised me and gave me hope that some things can be seen as above politics: he praised President Obama for being there, for being on the phone with him in the middle of the night and for rushing through the disaster declaration. That took courage in today’s political climate.

Want to know how you can help? Donate to the American Red Cross. They’re experts at working in disasters. Or you can donate to Hearts With Hands (which does accept non-perishable foods), a first-responder agency based here in Asheville.

This disaster will take months, if not years, to clean up. Let’s hope whoever wins this election has the compassion to do the work necessary to get it done.

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