The movie “Dunkirk” tells the little known story of how private individuals helped save hundreds of thousands of British soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, from annihilation from Germany’s military machine during the early years of World War II.
Backed up against the English Channel, the British and French armies were sitting ducks for German airplanes and warships that could have wiped them out, paving the way for a successfully invasion of England itself by Hitler’s Third Reich.
The news since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas gulf coast last Friday is as saturated with stories of help and heroism as the land is after 50 or more inches of rain fell on an area where drainage systems were obsolete if they existed at all.
Like the brave souls who used their private boats to ferry soldiers off Dunkirk’s killing beaches, regular folk with small boats of their own followed the calling of their conscience to help out their fellow Texans in this time of need. But for this American armada of flat-hulled boats designed for sport fishing, many Houstonians who might have become victims of the storm are live to tell about it.
It amazes when people who cry out about big, oppressive government and how wasteful spending on making civilization the best it can be look to government first-responders to respond first and fast. Even the most ardent hard-core Republicans who want to shrink government so small that it can be drowned in the bathtub, as dedicated tax-cutter Grover Norquist advocates, would look to McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Nationwide Insurance or The Limited or Walmart to rescue them from their dire circumstances. Police, firefighters, EMS crews and others are public workers are mostly like members of unions that Republicans routinely try to rub out by attacks on organizing efforts or union rules.
Fake Budget Balancers
Soon after former congressman John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, he tried to gut collective bargaining in 2011 by signing Senate Bill 5, a bill designed to limit union power. A campaign to referendum the law convinced voters by nearly 2-1 margin to reject the bill Kasich campaigned for. Had SB 5 withstood the recall, it would have forced municipalities to deal harshly with police and fire when contract time rolled around. If unions could be hurt, Republicans theorized, so would Democratic candidates who receive campaign contributions from them, reducing or eliminating the loyal opposition in the process.
But even Breitbart-reading, Fox-News watching Donald Trump voters who have it out for government know that when the hurricane hits the fan, it’s government help they look to first and always. It’s reported that Hurricane Harvey could end up costing more than $160 billion dollars after all the waters subside. Houstonians need only ask New Orleaneans who suffered through Hurricane Katrina in 2005 about when or whether they have or ever will fully recover.
It would be a hard-hearted soul that thinks federal disaster relief spending is government spending that increases the debt and deficit Republicans like Kasich cry crocodile tears about. Why should Ohioans pay for costly environmental disasters that hit Texas or California, where yearly wild fires and mud slides do their damage? If everyone is supposed to exercise personal responsibility, shouldn’t states take care of their own when times turn tough? If that means Texas should raise its taxes across the board to pay for clean up and better infrastructure so similar calamities might be avoided in the future, shouldn’t that be a core value for Republicans who think Medicare for all is unsustainable because some have to pay for standards they don’t want but help others?
State’s Rights For Disaster?
If states’ rights is the go-to excuse for the GOP-minded who prefer selfishness by not participating in federal programs that benefit the nation, state disasters ought to be paid for by residents and businesses of the impacted state. Maybe a check-off system giving taxpayers the chance to fund FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) like they can with contributions to public campaigns is appropriate. This would enable states to have “skin in the game” then, right, just like Republicans want individuals to have skin in the game when it comes to cost-sharing their healthcare costs.
But like single-payer or Medicare buy-in at age 55, don’t look for government bashers like Kasich or President Trump to advocate for draconian budgeting that would help rein in budget debts and deficits generated from spending to help states recover from their individual disasters, natural or man-made or a hybrid like Hurricane Harvey represents.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” said Winston Churchill, who became prime minister not long before the disaster of Dunkirk was upon him, said about fighting the Battle of Britain. The same appreciation of effort might be said about America’s Dunkirk.