I must admit, I've never been to Oklahoma. I have family friends from there, but it's one part of the Great Plains I've managed to avoid in my life. Yet that didn't stop me from feeling quite a bit of empathy with those folks in the Oklahoma cites and towns hit so hard by this week's tornado. On my radio program I suggested that this would be a great time for New Yorkers and those affected by Hurricane Sandy to get behind Oklahoman victims and their families.
This was not, for me, a simple moral calculation (perhaps it should have been). Politically, I figured if New Yorkers, through our lawmakers, made it clear we wanted as much money allocated by the federal government as was needed, maybe those people in the heartland would understand this wasn't about money first. I wondered aloud whether some senator or congressman would, as they did in the wake of Sandy, say in order to send money to the victims of disaster, cuts would have to be made in the federal budget.
It didn't take long. What was surprising was where it came from. The person to turn his back on Oklahoma was in fact, its own senator, Tom Coburn. Like so many deficit hawks, it wasn't about his constituents' suffering, it was about money. And where do you think Coburn might want to make those cuts? Doesn't matter. By taking a position that even some of his GOP buddies found over the top, Coburn was prepared to initiate a process that would have dragged on for months before anyone in his home state got a dime of relief.
Now, if cuts did have to be made, I have two modest suggestions. They certainly wouldn't offset the billions it will take to make those tornado victims whole, but it would be a start. First, lay off some drone strikers. The number of strikes around the world declined in the past year, so either re-assign those who sit in front of computer banks killing those in far off lands, or lay them off. And how about this? Cut the number of congressional days off by half, then reduce their salaries and cut their pension and medical benefits.
After all, many of our lawmakers are millionaires, aren't they? Tom Coburn is retiring from the Senate in 2016. He doesn't really need a government pension, does he? If the people of Oklahoma are being asked to sacrifice, let those who would make them wait for help do the same.