- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The convergence of two events this week — one by the hand of God, the other man-made — might leave us asking, “What can I do?” and “What should our government do?”

I’m referring, of course, to the monster tornado that shredded parts of the Oklahoma City area on Monday and the IRS scandal that left one official confused, at once sounding like a Chatty Cathy doll during congressional testimony Wednesday.

Let’s look at both events in another context — like the checkbox on IRS tax returns that asks: “Do you want $3 of your federal tax to go to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund?”

The president and the speaker of the House have already proclaimed that Oklahomans will not go needy for lack of federal government support, something that in itself is a mighty tall order considering the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a disaster relief kitty of $11.6 billion and that the federal government and the state of Oklahoma have yet to tag a dollar sign or a decimal point to the devastation.

What we do know — or, perhaps I should say, what White House spokesman Jay Carney has told us — is, “Right now, FEMA has sufficient resources” to handle post-tornado Oklahoma.

It’s on that “right now” note that we should pray no more severe weather reaches devastating levels in the coming weeks and months.

Similarly, we need to enlist hopes and prayers about the upcoming hurricane season — which technically begins June 1.

We know how water — whether churning from the Pacific Ocean or Atlantic — can be as tortuous as the winds that whipped Moore, Okla.

Hurricane Sandy, in case you have forgotten, was the costliest and deadliest (more than 285 people in seven countries) of them all.

Roiling along Interstate 95 and the East Coast, Sandy left deep and wide pock marks, and many of them will still be there this spring and summer when we travel to our favorite oceanfront getaways.

While the federal government certainly has a role to play in helping states and communities recover from natural disasters, we have one, too — texting donations, giving cash, writing checks and using debit and credits cards to help the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other private agencies that ride to the rescue. (And don’t forget the Red Cross needs blood donations, as well.)

We also lend a helping hand, helping neighbors, relatives and complete strangers piece their lives back together.

As I’ve said before, that’s who we are, that’s what we do.

The federal government has its own natural reflexes, including using the Internal Revenue Service to direct our tax dollars to pay for presidential elections.

The subsidy began in the early 1970s, with $1 contributions, and now asks for $3.

The money goes to subsidize presidential and general elections, conventions and, in some cases, primaries.

So let’s strike that box and replace it with one that puts our tax dollars to proper use — disaster relief.

The new box could say: “Do you want $3 of your federal tax to go to the Federal Disaster Relief Fund?”

Then all we’d have to do is check yes or no.

To be sure, I am no more a fan of government’s sucking coffers than you are.

But I’d rather my $3 go toward rebuilding a schoolhouse in Moore, Okla., or helping Auntie Em rebuild her pig pens and chicken coops in storm-ravaged Kansas than funding political conventions and candidates in 2016.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]



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