Why is it we often need a flood, earthquake or other natural disaster to remind us of our common humanity? What is it about the cataclysmic flooding in Houston that prompts us to remember we are all in the same boat?I’ve always thought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it well: “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Most people know and embrace Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, which he told to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” After his unforgettable story of indifference and compassion, Jesus asks, “Which one was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The answer: “The one who had mercy on him.”
This foundational principle should be easy for people of all faiths to remember, given that their belief systems are built upon it. In times of crisis, most act upon these teachings. Hearts, doors and wallets open wide, draw in hurt and battered souls and pour out love in the form of cold drinks, hot food and warm beds.
That’s why it’s so painful to watch Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz struggle with the concept as journalists and colleagues from New York and New Jersey remind him of his opposition to the $50.5 billion recovery assistance package after Hurricane Sandy devastated that region in 2012. Cruz’s Texas GOP colleague, Sen. John Cornyn also voted against the bill.
Three GOP congressmen from Louisiana — Bill Cassidy (now a U. S. senator), Steve Scalise and John Fleming — also opposed the package, despite their state having received massive federal assistance after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Twenty-three members of Congress from Texas voted against Sandy relief. Then and now, the weak, deceitful excuse was that the bill was larded with extraneous items. As Cruz put it the other day, “Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.” (In 2013, Cassidy made the same claim.)
Some members who opposed the Sandy relief bill also complained the legislation did not impose offsetting cuts to pay for it. That’s a position few in Congress took as Louisiana and Mississippi were suffering in the fall of 2005. (Then-Rep. Mike Pence did, proposing offsetting reductions to Medicare.)
According to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service, however, the Sandy bill contained $16 billion in community development programs, $11.5 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, $10.9 billion for transportation system repairs, $5.4 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, $800 million for social service programs and $826 million for repairs to national park facilities. All that was related to Sandy.
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