Rand Paul Isn't a Hypocrite on Disaster Relief

The senator's opposition to past disaster relief bills has always been on the grounds that congressional budgets should mean something.


Destructive tornados have swept through five states in the South and Midwest, leaving 88 people dead and many more without homes or power. Most of the damage has been concentrated in Kentucky where at least 74 people have died. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear warns that the death toll could rise higher still.

The ongoing pain and suffering in the state have focused the minds of more than a few liberal lawmakers and columnists on the alleged hypocrisy of its junior senator, Rand Paul (R–Ky.), for asking that President Joe Biden provide federal disaster aid to the state.

In doing so, these critics are almost entirely ignoring what Paul has asked for in response to this latest disaster and what his criticisms of past disaster relief bills have been. The result is some inaccurate cheap shots that skate over the serious problems of federal overinvolvement in natural catastrophe response.

Over the weekend, Paul sent a letter to Biden endorsing a request from Beshear that the president declare a major disaster in the state and start sending personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to start assessing and responding to the damage done.

Paul also signed onto a Sunday letter sent by the Kentucky congressional delegation asking Biden for federal individual disaster assistance, which pays for things like temporary housing and repairs to damaged uninsured private property.

Biden acquiesced to both requests, declaring a major disaster in Kentucky on Sunday and opening individual assistance to residents of eight counties in the state hardest hit by the tornado.

Reps. Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) were quick to pounce on these requests to criticize Paul's insufficient past support of various past relief measures. Omar goes so far as to quote Paul's 2017 statement—when a $35 billion relief bill for Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico was being debated—that it was easy to be "compassionate with someone else's money."

Media commentators were just as critical.

"As you might have noticed, Paul's request for federal assistance from Biden over the weekend did not come with a stipulation that any federal dollars allocated to the state would have to come from an equal offset in another part of the federal budget," wrote CNN's Chris Cillizza on Monday. "When it happens to YOUR state, those same principles go out the window."

Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik was even more scathing in his own article attacking Paul, writing that "one almost feels guilty pointing out the hypocrisy of people like Paul, because it's just so easy."

In addition to the disaster relief funding bills Cillizza mentions, Hiltzik cites Paul's opposition to both the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed in March 2020 and another bill that enabled the 9/11 Victim's Compensation Fund to accept an unlimited number of claims through the end of 2090.

Hiltzik should feel a little less guilty about attacking Paul given how off-base his criticisms of hypocrisy are. Neither the CARES Act nor the 9/11 Victim's Compensation Fund renewal are similar in kind to the federal assistance he's now requesting on behalf of storm-ravaged Kentuckians.

The former represented a massive fiscal response to the pandemic that included everything from individual economic relief payments to the effective nationalization of commercial airlines. One can be consistent in opposing those things while still supporting federal relief in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

(It also doesn't really fit with Hiltzik's accusation that Paul is only concerned about securing money for people in his state given that CARES Act funds went to Kentucky as well.)

Similarly, the 9/11 Victim's Compensation Fund renewal that passed in 2019 allows the fund to accept compensation claims through 2090 and authorizes it to pay out to beneficiaries without Congress actually appropriating money to cover those claims.

Paul's objections to the fund's extension were that there was no money budgeted for it and that the Senate was trying to pass it without any actual debate.

One might think that criticism of Paul's opposition to past disaster relief bills—which were also echoed at ABC News, Salon, and elsewhere—are more on point. They're not.

The two major examples cited to prove Paul's hypocrisy involve his opposition to supplemental appropriation bills in to provide aid in the wake of 2012's Hurricane Sandy and the hurricanes and wildfires that occurred in 2017.

It's important to understand that the bills Paul was opposing were supplemental disaster appropriation bills that spent money well above the funds that Congress had already provided for disaster relief.

In both cases, Paul proposed amending these bills so that they offset these supplemental appropriations—which ended up being $51 billion for Hurricane Sandy and a whopping $136 billion for 2017's disasters—with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Paul's position in both cases is entirely sensible and basically boils down to the idea that if Congress establishes how much it's going to spend in a year, that should actually mean something. Critics seem to believe that congressional budgets should in fact be a fiction that are enlarged whenever a new spending item pops up.

The federal aid that Paul has endorsed thus far for disasters in Kentucky will come from the federal government's Disaster Relief Fund, which as of early December had $45 billion in it. It's projected to close out fiscal year 2022 with $10 billion in reserves.

As of yet, no one has proposed additional unbudgeted disaster spending to respond to the tornados that hit Kentucky and other states. If they do, and Paul supports it without demanding offsetting spending cuts, that would be hypocritical.

So, thus far, everything he's asked for is already paid for.

To be clear, this doesn't make Paul a perfect libertarian on federal disaster assistance; the disaster response and relief system we have set up right now creates far too large of a role for the federal government. It's created a system of dependence in which state and local officials' first response is to turn to Washington for help when it should be them (as well as private parties) in the driver's seat. The individual assistance that Paul has requested and Biden has approved also arguably creates a moral hazard by paying to cover damages that people haven't insured themselves against.

We could have a substantive conversation about federal disaster relief and the preserve incentives it creates, but we probably won't since legislators and pundits are concerned primarily with incorrect, cheap-shot accusations of hypocrisy.

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  1. "To be clear, this doesn't make Paul a perfect libertarian"

    Certainly not and a damn sight far behind his father.

    Nice article but my question is if you give Rand Paul the benefit of an extensive review, do you do the same for others when there is a quick call of hypocrisy?

    1. Do they keep stats of people who are the only ones for or against something, knowing they will get attention afterwards? as to why they are the only one who voted for or against?

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  2. Cillizza chirping about principles is cute.

    1. Giant hogs with laser beams on their heads?

  3. The reason Rand Paul asked for disaster relief isn't some budgetary fine points, it's because voters in his state want it. The simple fact is that both Republican and Democrat voters want handouts from the federal government. Kentucky already receives above average federal handouts. Republicans in particular would do well to take these charges of hypocrisy to heart.

    Has Rand Paul done anything to actually curb the federal disaster aid program and limit it to actual nationwide disasters (as opposed to predictable state-level occurrences)?

    1. I recall Sandy being a tropical storm when it hit New York. Now it seems to have retroactively become a hurricane again. I guess "post-tropical cyclone with hurricane force winds" isn't as catchy.

      1. Sandy spent a great deal of its "life " as a hurricane. When it made landfall in NJ at 80mph it was still a CAT1.


        The worst thing about Sandy was its size.

        https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php - Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

    2. The article has pointed that YES, he did. He was unsuccessful, but he has absolutely tried to at least have the expenses covered.

      1. The article just mentions that Paul voted against specific relief efforts for technical reasons.

        I can't find anything where Paul opposes federal disaster relief for predictable state-level natural occurrences. He doesn't seem to be opposing the Disaster Relief Fund or FEMA.

  4. In his favor to the folks in the article above he didn't create the destruction in Kentucky, but the government and you did create the corona destruction.

  5. "repairs to damaged uninsured private property."
    Pretty much means that the owner thought the property not insured was worthless or they would have insured it?

    1. Not all property is insurable.

      1. If it's not insurable, that means that the risk is so high that its actual value (taking into account the risk) is very low.

        In that case, federal taxpayers shouldn't pay for it either, and whatever the structure may be shouldn't be rebuilt.

        1. Who are you to say what should and shouldn't be built? I would prefer to leave that decision up to the individual who owns the property.

          However, if that owner is unable to get insurance(for whatever reason) and the place blows away or whatever. Then that's on the owner. Taxpayers should not have to foot that property owners' burden.

          1. Who are you to say what should and shouldn't be built? I would prefer to leave that decision up to the individual who owns the property.

            I'm sorry that progressivism has so addled your mind that you are incapable of understanding that "shouldn't be rebuilt if you can't insure it" is anything other than advice, as in "you shouldn't run with scissors".

  6. The liars and frauds do not believe in "facts" that they do not conjure up.

  7. Face it- the guy is a dickhead. He can have all the principled statements he wants on it but at the end of the day you either vote for or against- he voted against. His record stands as it is. But when KY is hit, he is coming hat in hand to take money he said he didn't want others to get for one reason or another.

    Makes sense why KY votes for him and Republicans though. They get to be assholes to anyone and everyone else knowing that when shit happens to them (or when they need to be continually propped up on welfare considering how much they get back for each buck they put into the federal coffers) that someone else will pay because they don't want anyone to suffer, even though KY citizens really need to be hit with the weight of their decisions.

    They're hypocrites but they're not dumb about it at least.

    1. Yes yes, you've already shown everyone you're a gigantic liar. Rest on your well-earned laurels now.

    2. The idea that the most prominent libertarian in Congress comes from Kentucky is frankly farcical.

      1. Both of them.

        Paul and Massie.

    3. It is really funny how you won't see Tony, RBD or M4E more than sporadically for days, but when an article about communist idiocy in south america, or about Rand Paul comes up, they are here crop dusting the comments with some of the most asinine tanks the world has seen. It's like they read "communist genocide" or "Rand Paul" and lose all sense of reason.


      1. "asinine tanks "

        Lole. Takes. Asinine takes.

        If you want asinine tanks, maybe look to the Leclerc?

      2. That suggests they have a sense of reason to lose.

    4. Face it- the guy is a dickhead.

      The "dickheads" are the progressives who created these corrupt bullsh*t programs and got Americans addicted to them.

      They get to be assholes to anyone

      Good. Maybe it will eventually drive the point home that disaster relief for predictable, recurring weather events is not the proper function of the federal government.

    5. He didn’t vote for anything this time you dumb motherfucker.

    6. As opposed to the Open Commie's like Omar.
      Oh yeah; From what everyone can tell you're a Commie out to destroy the USA - why don't you move your sorry *ss to a commie nation?

  8. In other words, if a disaster befell the US in November and the emergency funds had been exhausted he would not have asked for help in December. Riiiiiight.

    I get it that if others are going to get relief and you opposed it you might as well ask for some yourself. That, in my mind, is not hypocrisy. It's like starting a game and insisting on one set of rules, failing to persuade your mates, and then playing by the rules you opposed. But trying to stretch things and say it is because there are leftover reserves seems a bit of a stretch and an unnecessary argument.

    1. Paul has opposed what he sees as excessive appropriations, especially when such incurs a debt. He's not opposing relief, but the $10,000 toilet seats that get snuck in to budgeting for it.

  9. A night of tornadoes put up a death toll in the triple digits, and in the immediate aftermath typical leftists used it to bitch about not spending more money on climate change.

    1. An ounce of prevention...

      1. Are you really going with "tornadoes in the Midwest are a novel phenomenon?"

        1. When I was a kid in the MidWest, they usually happened in spring.

      2. Yes: tornado-safe shelters are an effective means of reducing the risk from tornadoes.

        The Green New Deal is worthless in preventing deaths; it is pure cronyism and corruption.

  10. Except the feds don't have any reserve. They are 29 trillion in debt.

        1. But whom does the US owe money to? That's what being in debt means. That some force can compel the debtor to pay money back to someone. What's a bigger force than the US government?

          1. Good point. Money means nothing. Might as well keep the printing press rolling...

  11. So it is now libertarian-approved to have federal disaster aid?

    Or is it libertarian-approved to have federal disaster aid as long as we are taxed to pay for it?

    Does that go for anything else the federal government wants to do, or just things that are immediately politically beneficial to certain politicians?

    1. ^^ Did not read article. (As usual)

    2. So it is now libertarian-approved to have federal disaster aid?

      From the article:

      "To be clear, this doesn't make Paul a perfect libertarian on federal disaster assistance; the disaster response and relief system we have set up right now creates far too large of a role for the federal government."

    3. So it is now libertarian-approved to have federal disaster aid?



      Next question.

  12. "Rand Paul is indeed not a hypocrite, but as representatives of the Garbage Human Being Association (Libertarians) we are disappointed that he asked for any relief at all. In the future we hope he will remember that the most important thing is that rich people get richer, and that if some poor saps living paycheck to paycheck can't afford every form disaster insurance, that's on them."

    1. we are disappointed that he asked for any relief at all

      Because not wanting the government to steal money from disaster victims and hand it out to their cronies is the same as wanting no one to help anyone.
      -Garbage Human Being

    2. Sorry, as my favorite commenter continually points out, Democrats are by far the party of the billionaire class. And he would know, he is a devout follower of the greatest economic mind to post on these here boards, Mr. Buttplug.

      Did you know the Democrats haven’t raised the minimum wage one penny but the top 1% have increased their wealth by over $300 billion?

  13. Folks, what an honest politician (but I contradict myself) would tell the public is this:

    "Look, there is not one square inch of Planet Earth that is immune to one f9rm of jaturap or human-created disaster or another. Since the only legitimate purpose of Government is the protection of Individual Rights to Life, Liberty,and Property, in the event of such disaster, we'll do all that's within our means to do so."

    "We will will have City Police, County Mounties, Sheriff's Deputies, State Troopers, and Federal Agents out in full force in their respective jurisdictions protecting these Individual Rights."

    " We will make every effort to keep Civil Courts open, to uphold contracts such as used by insurance, emergency, salvage, clean-up, and construction services."

    "We will keep open Criminal Courts to indict, try, and convict anyone comitting crimes in the midst of the disaster."

    "We will keep open jails and prisons to punish all who are duly convicted of crimes in the midst of disaster."

    " We will also have National Guard forces active to keep order and protect Individual Rights within their proper sphere."

    "We will also have the U.S. Armed Forces and Border Patrol active to stop foreign criminals and invaders seeking to take advantage of our weaknesses in the midst of disaster.?

    "We will use no more revenue and resources than are necessary for these proper functions and allow all Citizens to keep as much of their Liberty and the fruits of their lahor as possible."

    "Beyond this, everything else is the role and responsibility of private businesses, private non-profit organizations, families, and ultimately the individual."

    "We highly encourage everyone to learn everything you can with the free resources on the Internet about all disasters and their commonalities, the skills and provisions of survival necessary in all disaster scenarios, how to procure, use, store, preserve, and defend those skills and provisions, and we encourage you to share the information and, where possible, provisions with others around you."

    ""Suavez qui peut, ('save who you can;)
    Root, Hog, or Die;
    Watch Your Six;
    And Keep Your Powder Dry!"

    1. Correction; one form of natural or human-created disaster.

      Carry on, Survivors! Thoughts and Deeds!

  14. Are you simple? Yes, these are allocated funds, but I am confident that he is going to request "above and beyond" the standard measures, mostly because he said something like uh this: "[C]ertainly further requests will be coming as the situation is assessed." Do you really think he is simply going to stop asking once the allocation is gone?

    1. Yes. I do.

  15. Well yes... Rand Paul *is* a hypocrite for putting the federal government in an area that has ZERO Constitutional authority to be in.

    He would be wise to tell the State to handle it themselves. Yet; he isn't a perfect USA patriot.

    But such an action is a LONG SHOT from being the Open Treasonous Communist traitors who are calling his principles in question.

    But then again; that's how [WE] mob/gang democratic nations end up going. It's gang against gang for who can be the King of the Mountain and dictate all the peasants. Ya; D*mb*ss democrats; the USA is NOT a democracy - It's a Constitutional Union of Republican States.

  16. As far as I know Rand Paul is not a hypocrite. I was confused when I read the title for the first time then it clear my doubts once I've read the complete content.

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