Casting votes against Sandy aid is not the American way

By Kenneth Kowald

As a Manhattan native, I have always been proud of being born in this city, but I learned from my parents that I should consider myself an American first before giving my allegiance to any locality.

That is what makes me unhappy about the course too many in government take these days on matters of importance to all of us. Nullification — the refusal to abide by federal law — was the battle-cry of the Southern slave states. Many in those states support the same idea today. Secession, another “reason” for keeping slavery alive, is being voiced by many in those states.

Perhaps it is not out of order to reconsider the remarks of Horace Greeley at the start of the insurrection: “Let the erring sisters depart in peace.”

But, let us put the irony aside. Let us deal with today, when federal funds are going to be used to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

As far as I know, New Yorkers in Congress have not ever tried to block help for other Americans caught up in the aftermath of natural disasters. That is the time when we are Americans first.

Not so with 179 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted against funds for Sandy victims. All but one of them was a member of the Republican Party, but 49 GOPers, including all those from the states hardest hit voted yes.

One has to be reminded of a comment by a presidential candidate about not caring about 47 percent of the American population. What was his name? Apparently, a majority of his supporters feel the same way. Is this “the American Way”?

Not long after he became a U.S. senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan began to publish a newsletter for his constituents. It was witty, on-target and full of information.

One of the points he made, which has remained with me since I read it, was that New York was among the states that paid more for the federal government than it got back in help from it.

A young friend has given me a report, based on 2005 data and the 2004 election, to show that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut continue to do so, among the 18 states in that category. With the exception of Florida, Texas, Colorado and Nevada, all the other states are Democratic.

In that same report, five Democratic states — Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Vermont and Pennsylvania — are among the 32 that get back more than they send to Washington, D.C. Remember, these are 2004-05 figures and some of these states may have changed political allegiance. The other 27 are Republican. They all get back more than they pay.

My friend found a report on slate.com posted Jan. 16 and headlined “Which Republicans Voted for Sandy Relief?” written by David Weigel. It is an eye-opener, but maybe not surprising.

It is worth the time to match those “no” votes against the states that get more from the federal government than they send. They have their hands out when the money is for them, but they deny it to millions in need.

I do not want “the erring sisters” or the erring Congress members to depart. I would like them to wake up to the fact that when it comes to helping our fellow Americans, we must put aside political ideology and do the right thing.

Since so many of us have relatives and friends who live elsewhere in the country, it might be helpful to get them to find out how their representatives voted on relief from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. A word to “nay” congressional voters from constituents might make them understand that they should represent all Americans.

This partisan Manhattan native continues to believe that my love of my country does not begin and end at the borders of the greatest city in the world.

On Jan. 28, 91 days after Hurricane Sandy, the Senate passed the relief bill. The vote was 62-36. All the nays were Republicans, 16 of whom were in the Senate when relief after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was voted for unanimously. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives with 11 no votes. Relief came less than two weeks after Katrina.

What kind of country are we living in with this kind of irresponsibility? No wonder Congress has such a low public rating. Helping other Americans is part of the American Way, remember?

I thank all those in Congress who voted the right way and came to the rescue of the millions who suffered from Sandy.

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