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House GOP Budget Cuts Tsunami Monitoring Funding

“The gig in Boston’s canceled. It’s OK, it’s not a big college town.” -Spinal Tap

Days when you see horrible natural disasters are days when you recognize the importance of a national government prepared to respond. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan is no different, and for someone who lives in California AND about a mile from the beach, it has a slight resonance to me. If your plan is to cut the small sliver of non-military discretionary spending, you’re going to hit hard at preparedness for events like this:

Tucked into the House Republican continuing resolution are provisions cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the National Weather Service, as well as humanitarian and foreign aid.

Presented as part of a larger deficit reduction package, each cut could be pitched as tough-choice, belt-tightening on behalf of the GOP. But advocates for protecting those funds pointed to the crisis in Japan as evidence that without the money, disaster preparedness and relief would suffer.

“These are very closely related,” National Weather Service Employees Organization President Dan Sobien told The Huffington Post with respect to the budget cuts and the tsunami. “The National Weather Service has the responsibility of warning about tsunami’s also. It is true that there is no plan to not fund the tsunami buoys. Everyone knows you just can’t do that. Still if those [House] cuts go through there will be furloughs at both of the tsunami warning centers that protect the whole country and, in fact, the whole world.”

The bill would cut $126 million from the National Weather Service over the next six months, and in total, as much as $1.2 billion from NOAA, which would undoubtedly lead to furloughs.

I’m reminded of Bobby Jindal scoffing in his response to the State of the Union in 2009 at money to be spent on “volcano monitoring,” when not but a few weeks later a massive volcano erupted in Alaska. Silly as it may seem, the government has a role to play in actually preparing for contingencies to protect its people. And traditionally, the US government has played a role in providing humanitarian and disaster relief to allies harmed by natural disasters. There are major cuts in those areas as well.

Unless you want to leave all that to Koch Industries.

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David Dayen

David Dayen