Opinion: The government is failing Houston

Drew Taylor

As the world watched the devastation Hurricane Harvey caused last week, another domestic news story may have gone under the radar: It was reported this week that Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking at making major cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA.

The reason for this potential cut in funds for FEMA would be to use the money, which could be as high as $876 million, to help pay for President Trump’s frequently-discussed wall on the United States-Mexico border.

This cut was proposed before Harvey wreaked havoc in the Gulf of Mexico. Had Harvey not happened, this cut would likely have happened without any real pushback.

However, bad timing and the use of funds on a useless wall are not the only problems with this proposed cut to FEMA.

The proposed bill shows a lack of empathy those in office have toward the victims of natural disasters like Harvey. 

Yet, FEMA wasn’t the only organization threatened with budget cuts; a $2.6 billion cut to the Environmental Protection Agency was also proposed.

By trying to gut the EPA, the government is ignoring evidence suggesting that climate change will provoke more extreme weather, leading to more damage and, most importantly, more deaths.

President Trump has claimed that he will donate $1 million of his own money to those affected by Harvey. While this would be a respectable gesture, it doesn’t do nearly enough for the victims or show any attempt to prepare for future storms.

A $1 million donation, a relative drop in the bucket in relation to projected costs in the wake of Harvey, doesn’t excuse the political reality: Trump proposed large cuts in funds and jobs to the EPA, as well as promoted Scott Pruitt, a well known climate change denier and someone who has sued the EPA 14 times, as administrator of the agency.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared Sunday a “day of prayer” in Texas, which is also a kind-hearted gesture toward his state.

Yet, Abbott also supported House Bill 1774, which went into effect this week that makes it more difficult for Texans to receive payments from insurance companies.

So, while politicians this week have talked the talk when it comes to helping those affected in Houston and other places where Harvey crossed paths with, they have failed in action.

Without the backing of our own elected officials, it may just be the role of the constituency to lift up the nation after devastating events like Harvey.

Drew Taylor is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].