In the hot, chaotic world of global climate change would Mexico and the Mexican Red Cross be the hope-of-last-resort for New Mexicans caught in a thousand-year drought or a Harvey-like episode of monstrous monsoonal flooding when the Republican Congress and the White House would not? That’s not a joke question.
While the White House praised the “terrific” federal response to the human tragedy brought to Houston by hurricane Harvey, worries over long-term federal underwriting of Houston’s recovery give special irony to Mexico’s sending of money and rescue workers to flooded east Texas despite the relentless defamation of Mexican character by the white supremacist, anti-immigrant American Right.
And if Trump’s budget cutters have their way, the federal government’s role in cleanup from the next hurricane Harvey-Sandy-Katrina on any of America’s coast lines will be more like the nuisance caused by a carping, incompetent neighbor than honest help from a trusted friend.
If a red state like Texas will eventually have to go it alone in the agonizing process of rebuilding Houston after the flood, what do you think would happen to a blue state like New Mexico, especially if the demons of fate should give us yet another tax-hating, do-nothing corporate shill of a Republican governor or a Republican mayor to collude with Congress and the White House?
Trump’s proposed cuts in emergency preparedness are penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking. The dollars you cut today will never be replaced or made up for by the more expensive dollars of the future. When you cut funds for emergency preparedness, the cuts themselves scar over and leave a permanent disability. It will take in the range of 15 to 20 percent more new money in the future just to get back to comparable funding before the cuts, a funding level which was never considered adequate in the first place.
If you had to dream up the perfect sick joke in the age of climate catastrophes, cutting funds for long range disaster planning and preparedness is about as mean and stupid as it gets.
Trump’s cuts to the Department of Homeland Security, under which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resides, would amount to about 9 percent of its total funding. Some $667 million of that would be cut from FEMA’s budget for grants to cities and states for preparedness planning. The National Weather Service would lose $62 million.
And Trump plans to eliminate altogether the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that helps homeowners and businesses rebuilt after a disaster. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Department of Commerce, a prime predictor of weather for coastal America, would lose some $200 million in preparedness funds. The National Flood Insurance Program would be docked $190 million.
These are the nuts and bolts of what climate change denial is really all about. We can point to the oil and gas industry, its “scientific’ hirelings, and its vast propaganda machine, for the damage that a hot and unpredictable new world of weather will do and has already done to people in American cities and urban areas around the world. Climate change denial isn’t some high-minded position in an intellectual struggle for truth. Its goal is to facilitate the accumulation of vast profits by various mega-corporations, profits taken at the expanse of the lives and peace of mind of billions of people worldwide.
And what about New Mexico? If Democrats should take major city and state offices in 2018 might they have the inclination to engage in serious local emergency preparedness planning to offset Republican malign neglect? Is their realism quotient high enough for effective action? Some 167 New Mexico dams are in such bad shape they have a “high hazard” potential, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). More than 25 percent of our almost 70,000 miles of roads are in disrepair. Some seven percent of the state’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” It’s estimated that the state needs more than $1.5 billion in drinking water infrastructure. This crumbling around us, the ASCE says “impedes New Mexico’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.”
More to the point, hazardous dams, and dilapidated waterworks, roads and bridges make us profoundly vulnerable to weather caused disasters. The ASCE doesn’t mention the hazards of poorly planned nuclear waste disposal dumped in locations vulnerable to intensified weather events in the age of climate change. Nor does it mention the spoilage of clean groundwater in major New Mexico metro areas and what it means to our water supply when surface water floods and dumps even more industrial and automotive debris into the Rio Grande or its aquifer. And stopping the long ignored, potential ruination of the sweet spot in Albuquerque’s underground drinking water supplies from record amounts of military jet fuel pollution remains a slow motion calamity in the making.
What if something should happen to Cochiti Dam, let’s say, and its suspected bottom layers of plutonium and polonium contamination from run off down the arroyos of the Pajarito Plateau laden with the hazardous debris from decades of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s experiments with bomb design and manufacture? What if the lake dries up in a mega-drought and the radioactive bottom dust blows all over North Central New Mexico? Would a Trump/Pence FEMA even recognize the dangers?
We know one thing. If even just one round of Republican cuts to disaster preparedness goes though, not to mention all the possible cuts over the next four or eight years driven by climate change denial ideology, New Mexico, like every other state, would have no federal back up to speak of when natural calamities overcome them. States might actually have to turn to foreign powers and investors to get the help they need.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it