Yesterday night, MSNBC showed a clip of high school students at a graduation ceremony in Joplin, Mo., last week hearing a speaker tell them how fortunate they were to be embarking on a new and exciting chapter in their lives.
One of those graduates, who is now homeless, talked about how different things were a week later and how fortunate he was to be alive.
Surveying the ruins of her home and the rubble around her, an elderly woman shook and cried as her husband put his arm around her. "All we have now is each other," she told the TV cameraman.
In the wake of the deadliest tornadoes in Missouri's history Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he wouldn't okay aid money for the Joplin tornado victims unless Democrats agreed to an equal amount of spending cuts. Cantor said, "If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental."
"Having pay-fors for that supplemental" is Washington-speak for budget cuts - in other words, screwing the working class and poor.
Republicans gained the opportunity to hold hostage the storm victims because the federal disaster fund had to be replenished before the government could send the suffering people of Joplin the aid they so desperately need.
Hundreds are dead, and hundreds are still missing in the working-class Missouri town where the average family earns $30,000.
Unlike the wealthy to whom Cantor gave huge tax breaks, the people of Joplin pay big chunks of their meager incomes in taxes.
Unlike the wealthy who got the tax breaks, the people of Joplin have no powerful lobbyists working for them on Capitol Hill.
Republicans were happy to get votes in Joplin, but, when disaster struck, they told the people of the town, "You're on your own, folks."
Residents of Joplin and the American people see, once again, what Republicans mean when they talk about "small government." They mean big tax breaks for oil companies. They mean that when disaster strikes working families are left to die in the piles of rubble that were once their homes.
There can be no political or moral justification for holding ransom disaster relief from the injured, from the dying and from those who must go on in Joplin, living with the memory of their nightmare. Human decency demands that any lawmaker who would do this be turned out of office forever in the elections next year.
Photo: Neighbors learn that someone had been found alive under the rubble and taken to a hospital, May 23, in tornado ravaged Joplin, Mo. Mike Gullett/AP