Callous comments were ill conceived

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A region devastated by Mother Nature is once again the target of undeserved, and quite candidly, inexplicable, criticism.

Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican and a popular member of the Tea Party, suggested the federal government use caution before disbursing any relief money to the estimated 10 million victims of Hurricane Sandy, many of whom are still in the dark. King is claiming the money sent to Louisiana and Mississippi victims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina more than seven years ago was misspent on frivolous items and services.

Records indicate King initially voted to send $10.5 billion to the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Katrina but opposed a second payment of $52 million for needs such as temporary trailer homes.

This past week, in a debate with Democratic opponent Christie Vilsack, King said Gulf Coast residents spent the federal assistance money on “Gucci bags and massage parlors and everything you can think of.”

Pity poor Iowans who are forced to endure an elected official with the sensitivity of a rattlesnake and an obvious lack of compassion for his fellow Americans in their time of need. His remarks were clearly uncalled for and injurious to the millions of people who were impacted by Katrina’s fury and the subsequent breeching of the levees in New Orleans.

King’s heartless comments were also insulting to the millions of victims along the Northeast corridor who are struggling to rebuild their lives in Sandy’s wake. To be sure, King has insulted every resident from Georgia to West Virginia, New York and New Jersey, hinting they will thoughtlessly spend their federal relief money based on false rumors and innuendoes he may have heard shortly after Katrina.  

Admittedly, not all of the federal relief money in this region was spent on necessities; some was undoubtedly squandered away. By the same token not every welfare recipient spends every penny on what the program is designed for, but does that man the program must be mothballed because of the mistakes of a few? Of course not.

The honorable congressman should issue an immediate apology to Gulf Coast residents for his insensitive and clearly unfounded remarks and lead the charge to get relief to Sandy’s victims, who are unfortunately bracing for another Nor’easter this week.

He should also apologize to Northeast residents for prematurely indicting their spending habits while they are still trying to dig out of the rubble and evaluate ruined lives.

King should be careful in what he says. The Midwest has certainly seen its share of devastating floods in recent years, and when the need arises again, as it certainly will, perhaps one of King’s congressional colleagues will challenge federal relief to that area, saying that a resident of Iowa might take the money and spend it on something as foolish as tearing up a healthy cornfield and transforming it into a useless baseball diamond.