Times are tough for the people of southeast Texas. Anyone who can’t be there to help should donate at least something to the Red Cross, United Way, J.J. Watt’s fund, or any other reputable organization. But when writing out that check, typing in that credit card number, or using that app, don’t forget to send a little something extra to the red state politicians.
Republican elected officials in hurricane battered states are absolutely reeling, and floodwaters are the least of it. After years of denying climate change, the political climate has changed along with rainfall patterns. After multiple terms of getting on their high horse to deny federal relief funds to flooded blue states, the horse is underwater. After a career of attributing catastrophic deluges to God’s revenge for sexual relations outside of a straight marital bed employing strictly the missionary position, devastation has come to the home of the megachurch.
What is a Republican pseudo-moralist to do when almost no one believes abstinence will stop the next Harvey? What is a holier-than-thou demagogue to do when, like Senator Ted Cruz, you’re now on your hands and knees for billions in federal aid while millions of northeasterners can Google your name and Hurricane Sandy and confirm that you voted against relief in early 2013?
What is an arrogant, uninformed Republican U.S. president to do when the largest single rainfall in American history strikes the heart of his largest electoral victory just two weeks after he gutted the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that calls for rational, science-based planning and development in well known perennial floodplains like Houston?
While we’re at it, does anyone recall former Texas Congressman Ron Paul explaining, post-Katrina, that FEMA and other federal disaster relief juggernauts were unnecessary and a waste of money? Does anyone remember Representative Paul stating that a few local faith-based organizations could handle the next hundred-year flood like a church bake sale to replace a broken pew? Given this history, did anyone this past week happen to see Ron Paul standing on the outskirts of Beaumont, Texas turning away the National Guard in much the same way Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door that day in 1963 when the University of Alabama was forcibly integrated? I must have missed it.
I must have also missed the red states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri turning away five federal relief dollars for every dollar they contributed over the past two decades. What happened to your noble aversion to evil federal programs that promote a sort of fiscal crack addiction? What better time and place to make your bold, highly principled Koch-supported stand than neck deep in rising waters? I’m sure you tossed those stacks of Jacksons, Grants, and Franklins overboard the way in 1773 the Sons of Liberty chucked crates of tea into the Boston Harbor.
Most significantly, I must have missed how the righteous right wing has reconciled its diverse incongruous notions into a coherent whole. If we are to understand this paradigm correctly, morally bankrupt liberals have—through scurrilous, libertine activity— brought on the sort of natural disasters hundreds of billions of tons of manmade carbon dioxide never could. Whenever those self-induced natural disasters rightfully hit blue states, good old-fashioned punitive Calvinist principles should be applied as a sort of cosmic karmic fiscal tough love. Whenever natural disasters unfortunately drift across true Christian state lines, the federal coffers should flow like the Rio Grande. Meanwhile, development on floodplains within true Christian state lines should be unrestricted and underwritten by these very same blue state sinful taxpayers nationwide.
There is one thing, however, I definitely did not miss. For the past 30-plus years I’ve been working as a civil engineer—for the government, for private enterprise, and eventually as an independent consultant. During that time I’ve designed dozens of drainage systems for parks, parking lots, and housing developments. One observation made by virtually every professional I’ve worked with is that the flood charts we used to design these facilities in 1985 were irrelevant by 1995 and a joke by 2005. By 2015, these same charts looked like ancient artifacts.
When the hundred-year flood of your early adulthood is the ten-year flood of your middle age, something profound and dire is occurring. Unless of course these design guidelines—like the thousands of stranded flood victims and billions of dollars in lost property we’ve witnessed over the past several days—are what we suspect they may be: Fake news.
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Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.