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Mother Nature to US Leaders: Your Neglect Is Worse than My Tornadoes

We are all stunned and saddened by the devastation caused by the dozens of tornadoes that swept through Southern states this week. President Obama visited Alabama today and walked through the wreckage, noting “I’ve never seen devastation like this.” Well, Mr. President, you and Congress need to get out more and take a close look at the rest of America.

Damage from devastating storms is easy to see. It immediately evokes offers of help and commitments to rebuild from state and national leaders. For a few days, ideological differences tend to be set aside, as both parties agree government has an obligation to intervene, to help the victims, and provide the mechanisms for recovery.

At such times, no one in the media would even consider interviewing the clown who said we should be shrinking government down to a size that can be strangled in a bath tub, even though this is precisely the time to confront those who think that way. Instead, the first question people ask is, where’s the government? Where are the services we need? Where’s FEMA? Why isn’t the President here to see the damage, and where’s Congress’ bill to fund relief efforts?

That’s great. Mother Nature’s power has a way of uniting humans into collective efforts whenever her destruction is sudden and indiscriminate. But what about the devastation to communities that plays out over years? Why is it we look differently at the natural processes that cause buildings to weaken and deteriorate, that cause bridges to rust and fail, that cause schools to become unsafe to enter or that cause waterways to erode and flood? Are these calamities not driven by exactly the same laws of nature?

When we promise the government’s help, what is the moral distinction between the devastation the President saw in Alabama and the economic devastation caused by the ongoing recession in Ohio or Michigan? Are the dilapidated homes and schools in those states somehow less deserving than those in Alabama? The former devastation was caused not by storms but by incompetent national leaders. Their actions have destroyed communities and innocent people’s lives even more mercilessly than tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. The victims are equally innocent and equally powerless to stop the forces afflicting them.

Yet the President and his advisers, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and fellow regulators, and this stunningly irresponsible US Congress don’t even acknowledge their responsibility to address the devastation they have caused to American communities and their citizens.

So, good for the President for visiting Alabama and promising the federal government will do everything it can to help the victims rebuild. Good for the Republican governors for graciously welcoming the President’s attention and offers to help.

The same devastation and neglect affect the whole country, but our leaders are ignoring 99.99 percent of the problem. They need to do their jobs.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley