Reports indicate President Trump and Republican congressional leadership may at least temporarily shelve earlier plans to cut $1 billion or so from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a border wall because of mounting relief costs required to help tens of thousands of Texans left homeless by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. If true, Trump and Republicans deserve our praise.
People are hurting in our state. A border wall of dubious consequence can wait.
Factor in billions of federal dollars needed to rebuild communities along the Texas coast. Consider, too, the rallying cry of the past eight years against budget deficits and the national debt. Add it up and it’s obvious our nation’s leaders must choose. That’s especially what being president is all about: making tough choices when the options are limited and the dollars are tight. You can’t have everything.
Certainly FEMA will be tested in the months to come. (More than $66.4 million has already been approved.) And in what must humble some Texans normally accustomed to bad-mouthing the federal government, the work ahead in recovery and rebuilding will take years and many tax dollars paid by Americans in other states. It’s time to swallow our rigid ideology and demonstrate the sort of resolve, pragmatism and courage that begins with fishing fellow Texans from floodwaters. To do anything less than prioritizing would demonstrate the sort of fiscal irresponsibility for which Republicans routinely blame Democrats. And funding a border wall now would dishonor everyday Americans rallying to help folks on the Texas coast, whether those donating to the Baylor Bears gameday collection drive Saturday or doing so as good corporate neighbors, as we see in companies ranging from Walmart and H-E-B and Whataburger to offshore drillers such as Transocean.
The challenges will be unimaginable, as John Easton of Southern Methodist University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering pointed out regarding just threats involving failing clean-water infrastructure and toxic spills from chemical plants and oil refineries. And as Jerry White, director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, notes, while businesses may manage to reopen, questions remain about their customer base — especially if the latter have moved on or now face economic straits that preclude them from doing any business. Another likely threat in all this: mosquitoes.
Lawmakers returning to Washington this week need to stay focused on the crisis at hand. “This is going to change the whole dynamic for September and, quite frankly, for the Republican establishment for the remainder of the 115th Congress,” G. William Hoagland, former budget adviser to Senate Republicans and now senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told the Washington Post. “The truth of the matter is they don’t need money to build a wall in Texas but to rebuild the shoreline in Texas.”