When superstorm Sandy veered inland, it devastated coastal areas along the northeastern seaboard. The effects were unprecedented.
Whole towns were wiped out. Eight million people were without power. As many as 100,000 were homeless. The damage was immense.
Understandably, governors of the affected states begged for federal relief, and President Obama asked Congress for $61 billion for that purpose.
The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, which doesn't bother with math, promptly OK'd it. The Republican-controlled House quickly passed $9.7 billion for flood insurance claims, and is to vote soon on the remaining $51 billion in requests.
Politicians and commentators excoriated the House for the delay.
Larry Harris, former chief economist at the Securities and Exchange Commission and now a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California, offered needed perspective in a column in the Wall Street Journal.
Harris pointed out that $61 billion is equivalent to:
- $194 for each of the 315 million Americans.
- $530 for each of the 115 million households in the United States.
- $7,625 for each person who lost power, regardless of how long.
- $792 for each of the 77 million students attending primary or secondary schools in this country.
"Unfortunately, neither the federal government nor its taxpayers have bottomless pockets," Harris wrote. "Spending for any one purpose ultimately limits spending for all other purposes."
Of course the federal government should help the victims of Hurricane Sandy - but not with a larded-up bill taxpayers can't fund.
Americans need to stop buying the political assertion that politicians who spend money they don't have are the good guys, and elected officials who do the math with other people's money are the bad guys.
The federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, and wild spending has sunk the next generation more than $16 trillion in debt.
It's time to stop cheering for spendthrifts and start cheering for responsible officials.