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The Dangers of Politicizing Natural Disasters

Photo Credit: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

This past week, Houston, America’s fourth largest city, was hit by the storm of the century. Hurricane Harvey dumped an unprecedented 52 inches of rain on Texas, shattering records. So far, 9 people have died and over 30,000 people are in need of shelter. In the midst of this great tragedy, American resolve hasn’t been shaken. First responders stretching from Seattle to Boston have rushed to Texas to provide essential assistance with the recovery effort. Millions of dollars in charitable aid has already been raised.

But not everyone is willing to put aside their differences. Many are using this storm to exploit human suffering and make political statements. For example, CNN correspondents began mocking President Trump even before Harvey made landfall.

President Obama’s foreign policy adviser used the hurricane to push global warming.

The New York Times led with an article entitled, “The Waters Swell. So Does Trump’s Ego.”

Now, as the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey is estimated to be as high as $100 billion, some in Congress are threatening to link federal aid to Trump’s boarder wall proposal, assuredly slowing down funds that will be needed by over half a million Texans.

Speaking on the passing of a federal relief bill, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) told CNN: “I think the real question is that the president of the United States has to be part of that leadership, with a commitment not to shut this government down.”

Rep. Lee’s comments were made despite President Trump promising, “To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100 percent with you.” When questioned about federal aid Trump answered, “The real number, which will be many billions of dollars, will go through Congress. It will happen very quickly.”

Texans are still waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters, and this is no time to play politics with the federal budget. Unfortunately, a similar scenario played out following Hurricane Sandy, which killed 147 people and cost over $65 billion. It took 91 days until a relief bill was passed by Congress. We cannot allow our politicians to stall funding that is absolutely critical to piece lives back together simply for political points.

Natural disasters in America are a time when people from all over the country and all different walks of life reach out and help those who truly need it most. These are also times when thousands are at their most vulnerable state, often lacking shelter and basic necessities. Texans cannot wait months for the arrival of federal aid, as was the case with Hurricane Sandy. We must demand our elected representatives to put aside political differences and provide federal assistance in a timely manner. Lives are on the line.

Follow the author on Twitter: @chaimstarkey

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About Chaim Starkey (12 Articles)
Chaim Starkey - Marylander, writer, traveler. Starkey is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland. He served as the Communications Director for Plaster for Congress.

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