GOP seeks to slash to tsunami warning funding

Posted on March 25, 2011


Do you ever get the felling that the problem with our “distinguished leaders” in Washington isn’t that they don’t *get* what the problems facing average Americans are; but they simply don’t *CARE* what the problems are?

The official death toll in Japan from last week’s 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami topped 10,035. And what “critical legislation” are the Republicans in the House of Representatives trying to force through?  A spending plan being pushed by Republicans would slash funding by one-third for the agency that warned Hawaii and the West Coast about the devastating tsunami’s carnage in Japan.

The plan, approved last month by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, would cut an estimated $126 million from the National Weather Service budget, the agency that houses the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

The center issued widespread warnings less than two minutes after the earthquake and issued instructions, guidance and updates throughout the day.

A union representing workers at the tsunami center said the proposed cuts, part of $454 million in cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could result in furloughs and rolling closures of weather service offices and will undoubtedly cripple the center’s ability to issue warnings similar to those issued Friday.

“I understand the tsunami is the disaster of the day — and it’s terrible — but the bigger issue for the U.S. is that we’re coming up on tornado season, we’re coming up on hurricane season,” said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. “The number one mission of the National Weather Service is to save lives. If you start deconstructing the early warning system, something is going to fall through the cracks and people are going to die.”

A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, which is leading the budget-cutting effort, said deep cuts were needed to restore the country’s fiscal health. The party’s plan would cut spending for NOAA operations by nearly 10% below the budget enacted last year.

“The nation is in a historic fiscal crisis, and it is imperative that the Congress roll back spending in virtually every area of government — including NOAA — so that we can help our economy back on track,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Hing.


But it’s fairly simple to understand at least one of the motivations behind this latest “screw the people” move by the right-wing. Hawaii usually votes Democratic. So if its population gets wiped off the map, that’s two less Democratic Senators the Republicans will have voting against them, and they can always import their pineapples from central and/or South America. It wouldn’t be difficult to see this as the same kind of political power-grab used in Wisconsin.

If there were a similar threat to one of the always-vote-Republican states, you can be certain that the Republicans would appropriate a sum bigger than the Pentagon’s contractor catering budget to save it.

I would like to go to each member of Congress, right and left, and find out what caused the death and/or suffering of someone in their immediate family, and then announce that I’m going to slash all funding that helps that organization because “America needs to cut spending.” Make it personal. Make it affect THEM. Let’s see how eager our “best and brightest” are to slice budgets then.

It’s just this simple: The tsunami warning center provided critical information to public safety officials for an effective and almost immediate response to the tsunami that directly saved lives in Hawaii and California. The House-passed bill that attempts to slash the warning center’s budget is shortsighted and puts our nation’s security, health and infrastructure at risk.

The GOP claims that their cuts to the tsunami budget would save $126 Million next year.  How about this: How about Congress picks one of the multi-billion-dollar corporations that still haven’t paid back their Bailout money and prevents the CEO and other executives from getting any bonus next year. Based on commonly available figures, that could save upwards of $400 Million.

Better still, how about they immediately act on the GAO’s report and cut just 10 percent of the overspending identified there. That would immediately save $200 Million.

No wonder the American education system is in the toilet. Our “best and brightest” can’t do simple math.