Saturday, May 2, 2009

Secessionist Texas Gov. Perry Leads In Calls For Federal Disaster Assistance

Governor Rick Perry recently suggested that Texas may secede from the United States. One week later, he requested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide Texas with 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to prevent the spread of swine flu. This despite the fact that CDC is part of a federal government that Perry described as "oppressive."

Perry has also issued a disaster declaration in order to receive more government aid. In fact, he has issued more such declarations than any other governor, as reported by Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones:

According to FEMA's website, Texas has been the site of 13 "major disaster declarations" since Perry took office following George W. Bush's departure in 2001. That includes five instances of severe storms and flooding, two tropical storms, one "extreme wildfire threat," and Hurricanes Claudette, Rita, Dolly, and Ike. (Texas received significant federal assistance following Hurricane Katrina, but it did not appear on FEMA's website in the "major disaster declaration" category.)

David Riedman, a public information specialist at FEMA, explained to me that a major disaster declaration is issued when a governor "determines the state's resources are overrun." From that point forward, the federal government, under federal law, is required to reimburse the state for at least 75 percent of the cost of recovery. Help is primarily targeted at rebuilding roads and bridges, debris removal, and repairing damage to public buildings. In the relief efforts that are still under way from the damage done by Hurricane Ike, the federal government is reimbursing Texas for 100 percent of all expenses, according to Riedman.

In fact, since FEMA's record-keeping began, Texas has received federal disaster assistance more times than any other state. From FEMA's website:

Again, one must ask: since Perry's Republican stance calls for him to lower taxes, how could he both secede from the United States and provide the same level of emergency aid that Texas has received from the government? I'm reminded of Wall Street, which embraced free markets for years–but then accepted bailouts when the financial industry was near collapse as a result of deregulation. Once again, conservatives are fine about shredding safety nets as long as it's not their own.

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