Recently, the governors of New York and New Jersey sent a joint letter to Congressional leaders expressing their outrage that the “fiscal cliff” legislation did not include more than $50 billion in federal aid for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy. Although the federal aid is likely to be approved by mid-January, this minor delay was deemed an outrage by the two governors, who said: “When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night.”
In fact, the real American tradition has been to help neighbors recover through voluntary aid and private investment. Prior to about 1964, most Americans would have been dumbstruck at the attitude of politicians who think federal taxpayers “owe” them billions of dollars in relief. Apparently, federal disaster relief is now another entitlement program, along with Social Security, Medicaid, and food stamps.
Since I have friends and family living in Manhattan, I certainly feel for those whose homes have been destroyed by Sandy, and I’m willing to help financially if asked politely. But when elected officials start acting like spoiled teenagers and “demand” that I turn over part of my income for their constituents, I feel a lot less charitable.
John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.