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Here's a headline we're tempted to write - or rather, one that we would be tempted to write if we weren't so nice, or so dedicated to avoiding oversimplification:
"Climate-Change Deniers Struck by Climate Change in Texas Tornado Outbreak."
This week two seemingly unrelated but very connected events took place: In the first, freak tornadoes struck the Dallas area today with unexpected ferocity, causing many experts to revisit the issue of whether tornadoes should be included in the list of extreme weather caused by climate change.
In the second, one of the hard-hit area's Representatives bragged about cutting funds for - predicting storms and reducing their impact.
If you think that's bad - and it is - last year Mitt Romney did the Representative one better: He said it would be "immoral" to spend Federal money to help victims of national disasters like the one that just struck Texas.
A Spell of Bad Weather
Even as presumptive GOP nominee Romney was talking like that last year, fourteen weather disasters caused a billion dollars or more in damage. And yet House Republicans insisted on cutting funds for studying the climate, predicting violent storms, early storm warnings, and assistance in helping communities minimize damage and loss of life. They cut $140 billion from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Commission, the agency which monitors the climate and helps minimize damage and loss of life during storms, after trying to cut much more than that.
Last year's GOP budget also slashed more than $500 million from the budget for weather prediction satellites. And they tried to cut funding for FEMA, the agency that helps people get through disasters like these, by more than half the previous year's amount (which would have left FEMA with less than one-third of its 2010 budget).
This year's House budget includes more of the same. In fact, economists who analyzed it have concluded that it in a few years there will be virtually no funds for any government activity except a growing military budget and spending that's mandated by law.
Good Folks, Not-So-Good Politics
That's what the citizens of Mesquite, Texas voted for when they elected Rep. Jeb Hensaerling to represent them in Congress. Now, we don't mean to be harsh toward the area's citizens, especially those in Mesquite, which was one of Dallas' hardest-hit suburbs this week. They're undoubtedly extremely nice folks down in Mesquite, and we're grateful that neither they nor anybody else in the Dallas area got hurt by these storms.
In fact, I've read a little about the town and I'd like to go there. The Real. Texas. Festival. (love the use of periods) is coming up later this month, and as a former country musician I'd love to see "20 musical acts on three stage" - not to mention as the "indoor rodeo action," the 'Taste of Mesquite BBQ Cook-off," and the "Cowboys and Chrome Car Show."
The problem isn't the good people of Mesquite. The problem is that they haven't been given the information they need to make better political decisions. They may have seen the statement by Rep. Hensaerling, for example:
""The passage of the House Republican budget is a sign of hope for the future of our nation and future generations for whom the American dream is in danger. Americans know that President Obama has placed us on an unsustainable trajectory toward bankruptcy and decline, but today the nation has a better choice: a path to renewed liberty, opportunity, solvency, and prosperity."
Rep. Hensaerling's full statement uses the word "danger" twice to describe the budget he voted cut - a budget that would have allocated millions more for predicting storms and reducing the risk of property damage and loss of life.
A Damn Shame
Were the citizens of the greater Dallas area struck by climate change this week? The most reasonable answer at this point is "We don't know for sure" - although the evidence seems to be mounting. But here's what we do know: We know that it will be a lot harder to discover the truth if Republicans like Mitt Romney and Mark McCaul have their way.
And we know that people like the good citizens of Mesquite will be left more defenseless than ever against the possible loss of property - or worse - caused by violent storms of every kind, whatever their cause.
That would be a real shame. I love meeting good people like the folks in Mesquite, Texas - and I love good barbecue too.
Texas musical interlude: The Texas Tornadoes - musical greats Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Flaco Jimenez, and Augie Meyers - perform "Who Were You Thinking Of?"
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