Grassley maligns Katrina victims

Matt Stoller found this shameful tidbit in the Congressional Record from last Friday. The speaker is Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who is mad that some senators want to find budget cuts to offset disaster aid for Iowa:

So I don’t want anybody telling me that we have to offset a disaster relief package for the Midwest where people are hurting, when we didn’t do it for New Orleans. Why the double standard? Is it because people aren’t on rooftops complaining for helicopters to rescue them, and you see it on television too much? We aren’t doing that in Iowa. We are trying to help ourselves in Iowa. We have a can-do attitude. It doesn’t show up on television like it did in New Orleans for 2 months.

Open Left commenter SpitBall raises an excellent point–a better question is “why federal aid to the flood victims in Iowa should require a budgetary offset, when the invasion [and] occupation of Iraq does not.”

But getting back to Grassley’s comment, it disturbs me that he would denigrate the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Can’t he just praise Iowans without portraying us as better than those no-good complainers in New Orleans?

And suppose the Iowa floods had left thousands of people trapped in their homes, unable to escape on foot or by vehicle. Is he saying Iowans would not stand on their roofs hoping to be rescued? Would we build our own rafts, or what?

The Iowa flooding this summer was unprecedented, but we didn’t have whole neighborhoods of people stranded without food or water the way New Orleans did the first couple of days after Katrina hit.

The unspoken contrast in Grassley’s comment is that (white) Iowans are better people than (black) Katrina victims.

Right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh started pushing this meme right away last month. Iowa conservative blogger Emily Geiger picked up the talking point from Rush or some other radio host and ran with it:

Iowans can fix most things ourselves. It’s just a matter of who is going to pay for it all after the fact. This isn’t like New Orleans, where (I heard some relief worker on the radio the other day say that) out-of-state volunteers had to wake up residents at 10 a.m. so that the volunteers could get inside the houses where the residents then sat around and watched the volunteers work.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when the going gets tough, count on Republicans to make people feel better by reinforcing their racist stereotypes.

Meanwhile, Democratic Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell did something constructive on Thursday. They jointly wrote to Steve Preston, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, asking for the immediate release of $30 million in Community Development Block Grants to Iowa.

The full text of their letter to the HUD secretary, along with a joint press release explaining some background, is after the jump.

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