05/28/2013 12:18 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2013

The Costs of Helping: Two Tales


President Obama has declared that Moore, Okla., is an area entitled to Disaster Relief funds from FEMA. Already there is debate about how much funding would be available from Congress to help that community to rebuild. And even their own Senator said that if they get aid there will have to be cuts in other aid programs to compensate. The struggle to get funding approved by the House for the victims of Hurricane Sandy was a very disappointing process. There has been a great deal of public support for victims of the Boston bombing, but there has not been a great deal of talk about federal help for those victims.

The federal assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina was considered to be very slow and difficult to manage. This whole issue of federal assistance to victims of major disasters ought to point our leadership to consider the cost benefit ratio of spending money now to reduce the conditions which produce these major disasters rather than having to go through the embarrassing debate each time in the House as to whether or not there will be funding for the help. The storms have been stronger and more frequent. The evidence for climate change continues to mount up and the costs of helping the victims continues to increase. There has to be steps taken to curb the things that we know contribute to making these storms worse. The estimates of damages in Oklahoma have been put at more than $2 billion. That may be low.

While the country is reeling from the tragedy of the tornado in Oklahoma, there is also, in a much more hidden way, another massive cost of helping victims that is not being talked about. As Memorial Day passes, there is lots of talk about remembering the sacrifices of those who have died for their country, while there are lots of military personnel being told how grateful the country is to them for their services, while there are lots of parades and good wishes given to the veterans, there is an incredible large expenditure needed to be made by government to provide for the living veterans the care and benefits they need now to cope with life after combat.

There are a number of charities raising funds to help the returning veterans because the Veterans Administration just does not have the resources. Some of these charities are scams, but others are trying to do for the veterans because VA hospitals are overwhelmed with the needs. These young soldiers were put into combat that to many appeared to be unnecessary. The United States invading two sovereign countries. But we sent them to do a job and they have served this country well in what is the longest military operation in our history. The concussions, the brain trauma, the emotional scars, the economic losses, the physical pains, the loss of limbs, the domestic violence that have resulted from these conflicts is a huge obligation for our country. Our country owes these soldiers the best medical, psychological, educational, emotional, economic help we can deliver, and our leaders have not authorized that kind of support for these people.

The help for Moore, Okla., is probably going to run about what one of the new jet fighter might cost. The help for our veterans might cost what a couple of those jets cost. After all, the estimated cost of the new jet fighters program has been put at $360 billion. We can afford to build those kind of weapons, but we cannot afford to provide the help for the victims of natural disasters or to provide good help to the soldiers who fight these wars. There would appear to me to be a moral question here, but we owe both groups more than just sympathy.