Georgia farmers must have felt relieved after Hurricane Michael (October 2018) devastated their various crops and trees following the visits by Donald Trump and Vice-president Mike Pence. Both promised the victims that help was on the way, that they were there for them. Lots of photo ops attest to this. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) was one of several Georgia politicians who assured the farmers that they would not be forgotten.
But the farmers have been forgotten and they are justifiably mad. Perdue and Senator Johnnie Isakson (R-GA) have tried to get the senate to pass a $12 billion relief bill that would help the farmers pay for some of their losses, to buy new seed and equipment, and to recover their livelihoods and futures. As it stands now, any number of famers will go bankrupt if their planting is completed within the next few weeks.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. It may be the worst storm and devastation on record for the U.S. territory. To date, the island has received $11.2 billion in disaster relief. Whatever other money Congress has allocated, none has been obligated to date where there are binding agreements to award funding.
Meanwhile there have been other disasters to include the fires in California, flooding in the mid-west, and tornados. Democrats in the Senate have insisted on including in the $12 billion package, upwards of another billion dollars for Puerto Rico. Trump has steadfastly maintained that Puerto Rico has gotten more money from him for disaster relief than any president in history. Fact checking belies his claim.
So where it now stands is that no one is getting helped.
This is remarkable. Some Republicans have tried to demagogue this by blaming Democrats for tying the additional aide to Puerto Rico to the Georgia farmers. But even the farmers aren’t buying this. No one is asking for five cents to be taken from Hurricane Michael relief to be applied to Puerto Rico. All that is being asked is for an additional appropriation, a drop in the bucket compared with all federal spending, and a small amount compared to money Trump is diverting for his wall with Mexico.
This reminds me of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, which blew through the northeast causing untold damage. New York and New Jersey were particularly hard hit. Yet House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) held up a relief package of some $60 billion until he was assured he had the votes of Republicans from those states in his effort to keep his challenged speakership. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other Republicans had their own reasons for opposing money for Sandy victims, that is until their states were the victims of natural disasters, at which time they had conversion experiences.
Georgia farmers and the folks in New York and New Jersey pay their fair share of federal taxes. And let’s be honest whether you are a Republican or Democrat---all taxes are about redistribution. But it’s part of our social contract to spend tax money for worthwhile causes---which admittedly are defined differently. If looking after American citizens who have experienced devastation isn’t a priority, what is? How much of their tax money has gone to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for other foreign ventures? And these people can’t get some of their own money back in their hour of need?
Puerto Ricans do not pay federal taxes. But they pay high taxes under their own government. Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, though, the U.S. taxpayer provides untold billions of dollars for various aide. It would seem that giving victims of disasters, both in the continental United States and Puerto Rico a helping hand to restore their businesses, farms, homes, and communities, they would become taxpayers again much sooner and not need additional appropriations in the years to come.
Our farmers and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. During the Vietnam War, 48,000 Puerto Ricans suited up, and 345 were killed on the battlefield. Both deserve better than they are getting. Senator Perdue is one of Trump’s favorite toadies. And Perdue has gotten nothing in return for his sycophancy. Perhaps it’s time for the south Georgia farmers to reconsider their loyalty to Perdue and his fellow Republicans. To paraphrase one of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign speeches where he sought the support of traditionally black voting Democrats, what do they have to lose?