Starve the Beast

High-quality responses to hurricanes, as we just saw with Irene, are soon going to be fond memories, just like the Clinton budget surplus:

In the spending compromise for this year worked out between congressional Republicans and the White House, NOAA’s budget was cut by about $140 million (House Republicans had sought much larger cuts) and money for new satellites was cut by more than $500 million from President Obama’s request. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco warned in May, “we are likely looking at a period of time a few years down the road where we will not be able to do the severe storm warnings . . . that people have come to expect today.”

Congressional Democrats and the White House were somewhat more successful this year in resisting cuts to FEMA that Republicans had proposed. But under the House Republicans’ plan to freeze discretionary spending at 2008 levels over a decade, FEMA cuts are inevitable. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress’s Scott Lilly that takes into account inflation and population, this amounts to a 31 percent cut in real per capita spending on discretionary functions such as FEMA.

That’s the new, improved Dana Milbank, btw.  (via)

53 replies
  1. 1
    Mino says:

    It’s going to get interesting when all those rich people don’t have a bridge to drive over.
    Careers to invest in–helicopter pilot

  2. 2
    Mark S. says:

    That’s okay. We’re not in for more powerful storms and hurricanes because Perry proved that climate scientists are in it for the money. Shit, when I was growing up it seemed like NYC was threatened by a hurricane every year.

    What do we need a national weather service for anyway? Real Americans just look outside.

  3. 3
    gnomedad says:

    I hope Obama strategists are targeting hurricane-struck areas with reminders that the Teapublicans want to give them the finger.

  4. 4
    Mark S. says:


    Real Americans also like relying on cash-strapped state budgets to help them out when disasters strike.

  5. 5
    RossInDetroit says:

    Hard to believe that Ron Paul thinks FEMA is a boondoggle to be shut down. He represents Galveston, where over 6,000 lives were needlessly lost due to poor storm prediction and disaster preparedness.

  6. 6
    Mudge says:

    Republicans are greedy, egocentric sociopaths. They care not one whit about improving, or even maintaining a society, it is all about them as individuals.

  7. 7
    dmsilev says:

    @RossInDetroit: Ron Paul explicitly said that our hurricane response system should be like it was in 1900. That he represents the GOP mainstream in this view is proof that the Republicans desperately need a visit from the ghosts of Christmases past present and future.

  8. 8
    chopper says:

    hurricanes yes, but don’t forget tornados. this year has been a record year and the NOAA and NWS did a great job tracking storms and getting the word out. thanks to satellites the warning time for tornados is higher than ever.

    so let’s cut their budgets!

  9. 9
    PurpleGirl says:

    If it didn’t mean that people who deserve the recovery help will be left on their own, I wouldn’t mind saying let those who voted for the idiots rot. For years, as a NYS resident I didn’t mind that we didn’t get back a lot from the Feds; I felt that we were one country and if Kansas or Oklahoma or wherever needed the help after a natural disaster I was okay with that. However, now I’m feeling, let them rot. They vote for these idiots, they think ill of NYers anyway, they don’t want government in their lives. Then, okay, do without it. Rot.

    (Yes, it sounds terrible, but I’m frustrated with people who think the Iron Age is a good time to emulate and go back to. Let them have the Iron Age in its fullness.)

  10. 10
    PurpleGirl says:

    Off Topic (maybe not): Yahoo has a story that some members of Congress thinks they deserve a raise. They can’t make it on $174,000 a year. (They’re living paycheck to paycheck!)

    They want raises now, during a economic crisis. Ah, congresscritters, what happened to shared sacrifice? You give me retroactive unemployment and maybe I’ll think about giving you a raise.

  11. 11
    Jinxtigr says:

    Fine, beat them and pay for a proper NOAA and FEMA.

    Seriously. Terrorist much? WTF? Quick, call hurricanes weapons of mass destruction, and claim it is national security, a War On Weather.

    We’re gonna need it so this isn’t negotiable.

    Ye fucking gods. These people would end up sitting in a pile of their own shit in a matter of a decade or so, pissed off and blaming everyone but themselves in the fourth world country they created. Sitting in the wreckage that had been left to fall apart.

    The libertarians are completely fucked. Human beings categorically cannot seek their best interests and don’t. Everything we do politically and societally has to be based upon that fact.

    Probably we better start a country with a tripartite system with all the parts set against each other and mechanisms to stop the majority stomping everything- oh wait, someone did that once, US. And we had a good run, too. We walked on the Moon, invented the airplane, at one point we had a middle class and were the envy of the rest of the world, pampered rubes with big hearts.

    Reboot? Surely it is not so hard, not as hard as taking a country that had no such history and imposing it. Surely we can figure out what we were doing that worked? It wasn’t slavery, either, shut up Confederacy ;P

  12. 12
    Maude says:

    I agree with you. It seems that the ones who say that other people should suffer come out unscathed.
    With the economy, the weather events and the crazies running for Republican prez, people may be getting a tad tired of the meanness.
    Then again, maybe not.

  13. 13
    cathyx says:

    @PurpleGirl: Unfortunately it’s not up to you to decide if they get a raise. They vote on it for themselves.

  14. 14

    Wasn’t it Rick Santorum, back when he was in the Senate, who wanted to kill off NOAA and have PA-based AccuWeather, a private company, serve that function? Or some such? I think he wanted NOAA to stop giving weather info for free and have it all turned over to AccuWeather.

    See this is the conservative plan. Kill off government, and have some private, for-profit company do the job instead. It’s somehow supposed to be better, shinier, sparklier, cheaper, whatever. I don’t get that. If a company is FOR PROFIT then that automatically adds to the tab. But that is Randian ideology in a nutshell. Have a private company do what the government used to and somehow the plebes prosper.

  15. 15
    lou says:

    Rooting for hurricane to hit Rush Limbaugh’s mansion in Palm Beach, as well as Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Lou Dobbs and Newsmax.

  16. 16
    dmsilev says:

    It’s becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between The Onion and the real news:

    With a massive wildfire currently raging out of control in his district, Tea Party Caucus member Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) pressed Congress to pass immediate tax breaks Tuesday to combat the rapidly spreading blaze. “This fire has already burned hundreds of square miles and left thousands of helpless families with only one hope: across-the-board income tax cuts and a sharply lower corporate tax rate,” said Franks, stating that broad-based tax relief would spur investment and extinguish the towering flames that grow larger by the minute.

  17. 17
    Napoleon says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Yes, you have it correct.

  18. 18
    gnomedad says:

    Underpants Gnome logic:
    1. Natural disasters
    2. …
    3. Profit Tax cuts!

  19. 19
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Let’s whack the satellites so that we don’t get advance warning and cut FEMA so that we don’t get a robust response afterward.

    The Red States are where the majority of the hurricanes and tornadoes wreak havoc. Why in the world would Red State politicians advocate measures that would cause more lives to be lost? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the pols are sociopaths and that the people who elect them are ignorant beyond redemption.

    One last thing; I live in California and so me and mine aren’t effected by hurricanes and tornadoes (Yet). Despite that, I wouldn’t want one dime cut from the budgets of those agencies that mitigate weather-related loss of life in the Red States.

  20. 20
    kay says:

    FEMA’s role is much, much bigger and broader than Millbank describes.

    I heard Napolitano on one of the cable shows and (I think) she said 36 states initiated the process for FEMA intervention and/or support this year.

    So I looked.

    Conservatives are delusional. Just no earthly idea what goes on in their own country. Hell, in their own county, judging by this list.

  21. 21
    cathyx says:

    @Dennis SGMM: But you do live where earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires, and flooding occurs. Maybe we could adopt a state by state funded FEMA.

  22. 22
    cleek says:

    reality is irrelevant. what’s really important is how things should be. a fatal flaw common to many an ideology.

  23. 23
    RalfW says:

    This is the perennial problem of government: when it works well, no one notices and few say thank you. When it doesn’t, everyone screams bloody murder and trashes it.

    I flew home yesterday, and neither of my flights went through storms nor had a mid-air or tarmac collision. I wonder why that is? Could it be…gubmit?!?

    No one notices. They just notice the intrusive TSA theater with their body xrays and latexed hands rifling thru bags.

    Now multiply that times every food borne illness averted, bridge that didn’t collapse, etc v. the handful of food scares and one I-35 (and that was a state failure under a decidedly small gubmit governor and a Lt. Gov who doubled as Mn/DOT Commissioner – but nevermind that! of course).

  24. 24
    kay says:


    I’m not all that attentive. but I do take notice when a giant destructive tornando comes through. One would think they’d notice a local flood, what with their feet being wet, and all.

    But. I didn’t know all of this was going on nationally. 36 states! I was surprised when she said it. Death and destruction, from Tennessee to Missouri to Oklahoma. Who knew? It’s probably like that every year. It’s a big country :)

  25. 25
    John PM says:

    @dmsilev #16

    I had to actually click the link to determine that the article was in fact from The Onion and not CNN. I think the time for satire is done.

  26. 26
    Dennis SGMM says:


    We sure do have our share of natural disasters. State-by-state funding for FEMA is an interesting idea. My only reservation about it is that the funding for those states that are regular victims of weather events would get the major portion of the funds and that could leave FEMA unable to adequately respond to those once-in-a-lifetime epic disasters.

  27. 27
    jwest says:

    At some point, it would be helpful if liberals took the time to learn and understand what FEMA is, along with trying to grasp how disaster response is organized in the US. Because of the rampant ignorance of the subject by the public, politicians and the media, people will suffer and die needlessly in future disasters.

    On a related note for Purple Girl, if there is to be any hope of getting better government congressmen should have a base salary of $500,000/yr, a bonus of the same amount if they hit their goals, NetJets hours based the distance of their districts and a housing allowance of $10,000/month. Senators would base at $750,000/yr and the president at 2 million.

  28. 28
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    On a related note for Purple Girl, if there is to be any hope of getting better government congressmen should have a base salary of $500,000/yr, a bonus of the same amount if they hit their goals, NetJets hours based the distance of their districts and a housing allowance of $10,000/month. Senators would base at $750,000/yr and the president at 2 million.

    So the solution is to throw money at the problem.


  29. 29
    Mino says:

    @RossInDetroit: After Hurricane Gilbert (I think it was)wiped out Galveston, the debris was piled up alongside the highway for months and months and months.

  30. 30
    jibeaux says:


    Guess which state has the highest total number of disasters since 1953?

  31. 31
    jwest says:

    By paying the people who decide how trillions are collected and spent the pittance that they receive now, you are limiting those offices to millionaires or the dirt poor, effectively eliminating the segment of the population that have the skills and desire to serve.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Yes, money is the only thing that motivates anyone at all.

    Explains why I spent years working 120 hour weeks, freezing my ass off in snowstorms in Germany and Korea. I was there for the fabulous money!

  33. 33
    Roger Moore says:


    They want raises now, during a economic crisis.

    They need to reread the 27th Amendment. Tough luck, fuckers.

  34. 34
    jwest says:


    I froze my ass off at Camp Casey in Korea for awhile, but apparently I had better hours than you.

    Money isn’t the main motivating factor, but providing a salary commensurate with the responsibility of the job is simply good management. Why would a lawyer, businessman, academic or others who have the skills and motivation to make the country run well punish their families by maintaining two residences and lowering their lifestyle by serving in congress?

  35. 35
    Gin & Tonic says:

    This is after the fact, and not forecasting, but serves as a) an example of the good, mundane, unsung work that the Nat’l Weather Service does and b) for the data-driven, a much better answer than photos to the question “how bad was it?” in, say, central Vermont.

  36. 36
    jibeaux says:

    @Dennis SGMM:

    According to the link kay sent, California has had the second highest number of federal disasters since 1953.

  37. 37
    jibeaux says:


    Eh, if they’ve got refrigerators, they ain’t poor. I am reliably informed by the Heritage Foundation that this is so.

  38. 38
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Wasn’t it Rick Santorum, back when he was in the Senate, who wanted to kill off NOAA and have PA-based AccuWeather, a private company, serve that function? Or some such?

    Thanks for remembering that. While the bill died in committee, the gist of it was that he wanted to prohibit the NWS from issuing forecast data if a private company was already issuing similar forecasts. In what I am sure was a complete coincidence, the only private company in that business at that time was Accu-Weather, based in his state, which had made substantial campaign contributions to him.

  39. 39
    Brian says:

    “…just like the Clinton budget surplus…” which was followed, like EVERY surplus since WWII, by a recession. The Clinton surplus (which was conceived as a smaller deficit, turns out the CBO underestimated growth) is maybe the dumbest thing Democrats tout. Please stop giving in to Republican framing of the debt/deficit issue: Balancing the budget is NOT a good thing.

  40. 40
    Roger Moore says:

    Seeing Texas, California, New York, and Florida in the top 5 in disaster declarations shouldn’t be that surprising. The declarations are more about damage being done to people and property, so you’d expect the most populous states to be near the top. Seeing a whole bunch of Southern states round out the top 10 seems like pretty good evidence that the Red states are getting more than their fair share. Also too, it looks as if the inland West is about the least disaster prone area in the country.

  41. 41
    jwest says:


    Proportionately, if you won the lottery and had to have one person manage your money, would you feel comfortable giving it to whomever you could get for $5/hour?

  42. 42
    jibeaux says:


    The incoherent use of the word “proportionately” doesn’t make the analogy between wealth management and good governance any more sensible. But if I were going to run with this silliness anyway, I’d say I could shop around for a good money manager pretty well with $175k a year. p.s. separate residence from their families for these guys is a feature, not a bug.

  43. 43
    TheWorstPersonInTheWorld says:

    Obviously, the compromises President Obama has hashed out with the Republicans are working out really well, to the benefit of all Americans.

    He’s got this.

  44. 44
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    That’s OK, we’ll just send robots to live through the hurricanes.

  45. 45
    jwest says:


    Using proportion, I was trying to give you a sense of scale that you could wrap your head around.

    If you would spend $175K on a money manager to care for some few million in lottery winnings, then it would follow that you might consider spending a bit more for each federal elected official whose share of the budget is $8 billion.

  46. 46
    Roger Moore says:


    “…just like the Clinton budget surplus…” which was followed, like EVERY surplus since WWII, by a recession.

    That’s an incredibly stupid thing to say. Every period of growth is inevitably followed by a recession because the recessions defined the end of periods of growth. Every time we’ve run a surplus we’ve had a recession, but every time we’ve failed to run a surplus during a period of growth we’ve also had a recession. By definition every period of growth ends in a recession.

    And yes, running a surplus when the economy is on a roll is an absolutely good idea. That’s part of standard Keynesian economics. People talk about running a big deficit when there’s a recession, but Keynes also advocated running a real surplus during periods of growth. The surplus does two good things. First, it helps pay down the debt you ran up in the last recession so you’re real deficit neutral over the business cycle. Second, it acts as a counter-cyclical restraint on growth, which helps to delay the onset of inflation that triggers the next recession.

    The Democrats may be foolish to tout the idea that the Clinton surplus could have paid off the National debt- the good times were never going to last that long, we were always going to need to run a deficit in the next recession, and paying off the debt completely was never a good idea anyway- but they were right to talk up the benefits of running a surplus.

  47. 47
    catclub says:

    @Gin & Tonic: The kicker was that of course, Accu-Weather got their satellite and other data from … NWS. Just like the Weather Channel.

    And I am fairly sure they get it for free.

  48. 48
    jibeaux says:

    Ah, so the word you were really searching for there is “retardedly.” No, I don’t especially think looking at last year’s budget and saying “for this year, we should cut that to 2008 levels, and tax cuts for the rich!” is worth $175,000,000 a year, but clearly I am not seeing the shiny awesome brilliance of House Republicans. Obviously there are many, many highly trained hours of skilled financial analysis that the former dentists in the Tea Party caucus are doing before they say that.

  49. 49
    PeakVT says:

    I hate agreeing with trolls, but we should pay our Congresscritters more. At this point, only the wealthy can afford to be a federal politician. However, instead of having politicians vote on their salaries, they should just be set to a multiple of the minimum wage. 20 x $7.25 would be ~$300k/yr, which should be enough to keep a home back in a Congressional district, a decent rental around DC, and actually have some left over to save so they don’t have to whore themselves immediately after leaving office. Salaries for other offices could be set in the same way at higher or lower multiples.

  50. 50
    RSA says:

    money for new satellites was cut by more than $500 million from President Obama’s request… According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress’s Scott Lilly that takes into account inflation and population, this amounts to a 31 percent cut in real per capita spending on discretionary functions such as FEMA.

    So, no new satellites for tracking hurricanes? Well, I guess I that $1.66, my share of the savings per capita, will be enough for me to buy a sandbag.

  51. 51
    danimal says:

    I loved the tea party defenses posted on the Milbank story. Completely incoherent; something along the lines of, “Yes we want to cut government and yes we proposed massive cuts to FEMA and NOAA, but we really want to cut the government with a scalpel instead of an ax and keep programs like FEMA and NOAA because they work.” Left unsaid, of course, is that actual budget actions (CUT, CUT, CUT) speak WAY louder than Tea Party word salad (We support core functions of government…).

  52. 52
    TenguPhule says:

    but providing a salary commensurate with the responsibility of the job is simply good management.

    This is America, we don’t do that any more for normal people.

  53. 53
    Original Lee says:

    This is beyond stupid. Even the local meteorologists were taking great pains to point out all of the satellite footage and how good the hurricane track forecasts were and how this was only possible because they finally have enough satellites to look at the ocean properly. So if the local news is spending a few minutes every hour emphasizing that they need their satellites, um, then maybe they are really necessary.

    Too logical, I know. Oh well.

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