Tropical Storm Sandy hit the east coast so close to election day that it's difficult to determine how the country thinks about the role of FEMA and federal disaster aid. It's possible that the storm moved some votes in Florida, where residents understand the violent forces of nature and the role the Federal government plays in recovery.
But we actually do have some data on how a specific group of citizens view the role of Federal disaster relief in the wake of a massive natural disaster. For American taxpayers who dug in deep to help Joplin, MO recover from the devastating E-5 tornado in May of 2011 - a disaster that took 161 lives and destroyed thousands of buildings - we cruise below the squiggle to see how a disaster-torn community that our tax dollars are rebuilding feel about 'big government'.
Before I get to the vote totals, I'll mention that Federal funding continues to pour into Joplin.
This was just last month.
The city of Joplin, Mo. is getting an additional boost in an effort to clean up soil contaminated by lead and cadmium that was blown around by the fatal EF-5 tornado in May 2011.OMG! The EPA, which is taking away freedom 'n stuff, is giving our city almost $3M to keep our children from getting poisoned by toxins? The EPA that Republicans want to abolish? Gee, this may make them rethink the GOP platform a bit. Or not.
The $2.4 million from the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program will allow the city to remove the pollutants from an estimated 240 homes, park, playgrounds, and other places where children live or play over the next three years. The funds are in addition to $500,000 provided last December that allowed the city to hire a remediation coordinator and pay for the needed equipment, and excavation and replacement of contaminated soil.
But wait - even more Federal funds poured into Joplin just last month.
At a presentation Thursday at Joplin City Hall, Theresa Porter, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deputy regional administrator, made official its $45 million Community Development Block Grant to the city. The grant had been announced previously. It is designed to help the city recover from the May 22, 2011, tornado.Overall, the Joplin tornado was the costliest tornado in the last half century. And even those who exclusively watch Fox "News" were aware of the massive Federal funding that helped them to rebuild.
Insurance policies are expected to cover most of the $2.8 billion in damage. But taxpayers could supply about $500 million in the form of federal and state disaster aid, low-interest loans and local bonds backed by higher taxes, according to records obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with federal, state and local officials.It's true that private and charitable funding has also gone to Joplin. A disaster of this magnitude requires a partnership between government and groups such as Habitat for Humanity and a fund that the local Chamber of Commerce developed to help small businesses rebuild. But these efforts are a drop in the bucket compared to the massive Federal aid that was provided to Joplin and continues to be provided.
Almost one-fifth of that money was paid to contractors who hauled off debris. Tens of millions more dollars went to individuals for temporary housing and other living expenses in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Additional money could help subsidize construction of a new hospital to replace one that was irreparably damaged.
All told, about two dozen school districts, emergency agencies, public housing authorities, religious groups and other nonprofits could receive taxpayer money through a program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
...For Joplin families still on the long road to recovery, the taxpayer aid generally is appreciated.
I'll also mention that President Obama has made several visits to Joplin - once after the tornado and again in May of this year to address the graduating class of Joplin High School.
So....getting to the vote. One might think that the residents of Joplin would finally see through the GOP bellows against the EPA, against the 47% who are 'taking stuff', against 'big government'. One would think they would have been appalled at Willard Romney wanting to eliminate FEMA and let the private sector 'help' at huge profits to themselves at the expense of taxpayers. Let's see.
Joplin is mainly in Jasper county, MO but part of it lies in Newton county. Let's check out the vote totals for both in the 2012 presidential election.
JASPER COUNTY: Obama 12,808/Romney 31,345
NEWTON COUNTY: Obama 6,425/Romney 18.179
TOTALS Obama 19,233/Romney 49,524
While these numbers are discouraging, the population of Joplin pre-tornado was a smidgen over 50k so it's possible that the Obama numbers are coming primarily from Joplin - but it's still less than half of the existing population of Joplin and comes from a metropolitan area of over 176k - a metro area that did pretty well with the federal funding as it provided much-needed construction jobs.
If this isn't voting against your own self-interest I'm not sure what is. Or it's possible that they figure that they have their federal funding and will now vote to ensure that other such stricken communities won't have the same opportunity to rebuild that they did.
NOTE: Before people talk about how stupid Missourians are - and I too think the above is pretty stupid - here are a few more vote totals from our urban area, including my city of Kansas City:
St Louis City: Obama 116,654/Romney 22,617
Kansas City: Obama 102,135/Romney 29,090
We're not all dumb.
UPDATE: I just checked and incredibly, the Joplin Globe endorsed Romney - and it's because of the big Federal deficits 'n freedom 'n stuff.
Let’s acknowledge some of Obama’s achievements up front, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. [NOTE: NO mention of tornado relief]
But in regard to the issue that is front and center for Americans — jobs and economic recovery — this nation remains stalled.
And on the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being — unchecked federal spending — this nation is more than stalled. It is in reverse.
In four years, our national debt slid from $10.7 trillion to $16.1 trillion, coming despite Obama’s promise to cut annual deficits in half. [NOTE: Joplin didn't turn down the more than half billion dollars they were given]