Katy Burns: Bayonets, hurricanes and profits

  • President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk from Marine One across the South Lawn to the White House in Washington on Tuesday as they return from Austin, Texas. Ap

Monitor columnist
Published: 9/3/2017 12:30:03 AM

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that henceforth the good officers of the Bow constabulary will be able to arm themselves with bayonets, courtesy of our ever-benevolent president.

Yes, bayonets. Turns out they’re not just for Redcoats in 18th-century costume dramas, Civil War re-enactors or tableaux of doughboys crouched in the muddy trenches of the Great War in Europe anymore. They’re for today!

And they’re among the many lethal military goodies that Donald Trump is happily passing out, gratis, not only to local police departments but a slew of other entities, including park districts, the U.S. Forest Service and junior college police officers as he revives (and some say expands) a program, restricted several years before of the end of the Obama administration, distributing excess military equipment to local governments.

Without actually checking with Bow authorities – I hate being laughed at – I suspect that bayonets are not at the top of their wish list. Nor are they, I imagine, what – along with grenade launchers and “weaponized aircraft” – public officials in rain-drenched Southeast Texas are yearning for right now.

Still, maybe Trump and his brain trust figure that giving local officials a few high-powered weapons will make up for a whole passel of less popular things. Such as gutting the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other disaster relief programs.

Yes, indeed, FEMA – the outfit expected to help finance and to shepherd Americans’ recovery from massive natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey – is among the agencies due for a $1 billion cut under the budget put forth by the 45th president and the Republican congressional leadership.

Everything from NOAA programs that help coastal states prepare for the effects of climate change – greater and more destructive storms – to HUD programs that help homeowners and business owners to rebuild after disasters are on the chopping block.

The Weather Service stands to lose $62 million for helping update weather models and improve predicting changing weather further out.

And the National Flood Insurance program is set to lose $190 million targeted for regular remapping of flood-prone areas, which constantly change.

In recent days, it has come out that one reason the GOP “leadership” – whether it’s really leadership is increasingly questionable – wants to go along with the Trump cuts is to use the money to help pay for Trump’s massive (and “beautiful”!) wall along our entire southern border.

Besides gutting programs aimed at helping citizens cope with massive disasters, just several weeks ago Trump – in his wisdom – also killed an Obama-era regulation designed to ensure that public projects – bridges, buildings and so on – had to be designed to a higher, more flood- and storm-resistant standard when rebuilt with federal money.

The only possible reason to kill such a sensible requirement, ultimately designed to save taxpayer money? It had been adopted during the Obama administration – the kiss of death as far as the Obama-phobic Trump is concerned.

While we contemplate that, we should note that it’s not only government coming to the aid of Hurricane Harvey victims. Private citizens are stepping up as well, contributing many millions of dollars to private charities that are consistently in the forefront of aid when disasters like this strike.

And private enterprise is doing its part as well. Among the many large and small companies stepping forward is Home Depot, which loudly announced that it was proud to contribute $1 million to the suffering citizens of Houston. Three cheers for Home Depot!

Plus, it’s speeding up delivery of home construction materials to stores in the afflicted area. (No self-interest there, of course.)

But before you get too impressed with the largesse of the massive company, keep in mind that its net income for the second quarter of this year alone was $2.7 billion, based on a whopping $28.11 billion total income for that period.

In comparison, actress Sandra Bullock is also contributing $1 million. And – unlike Home Depot – she doesn’t stand to make a bundle peddling building supplies to the storm’s victims.

I must note that as I was writing this, the White House announced that President Trump will contribute $1 million “from his own bank account” to Harvey relief. It pains me to be skeptical, but – given Trump’s long record at shirking such promises in the past, as documented by Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold in his Pulitzer Prize-winning series – I’ll believe this when, before a battery of TV cameras, Trump actually turns over a verified personal check for such a donation. And it is immediately cashed and found good.

While we wait for that unlikely day to come, want to know another entity likely to make a tidy profit on Hurricane Harvey? Why, President Trump’s re-election committee!

Surely you’ve noticed those USA hats – both red and white – that our leader has been wearing when he pops up in hurricane photo ops and pictures posted on the White House website? Well, they’re the “official USA 45th Presidential Hats,” and they’re available exclusively, on the president’s re-election website for 40 bucks a pop!

Nothing like making a little money on the side.

And so the week staggers to a close. Houston and environs are slowly – very slowly – drying out. Rebuilding is beginning. And while the spirit of private enterprise is alive and well even in the most dire of circumstances, at least neither Home Depot nor the Trump 2020 website has unveiled a profitable little sideline peddling bayonets.


(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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