Storm stirs the political pot

Government, according to a well-worn adage credited to Barney Frank, is the name for the things we decide to do together.

Right now, aiding those affected by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey is, of course, the most pressing thing we are doing together. President Trump visited Texas yesterday, and the White House and Republican congressional leaders are vowing to quickly approve disaster relief for the areas hit by the storm.

We are in an era when nearly everything can be viewed through the lens of politics, and there is no time-out granted for disasters. Or, as columnist Scot Lehigh writes in today’s Globe, “It may be an impolitic point to make at this meteorological moment, but sometimes bluntness helps clear the conceptual clouds.”

The blunt point Lehigh proceeds to make is that concern by elected officials for their fellow Texans in their time of emergency need ought to extend to long-term basic requirements as well — such as the need for access to affordable health care. Lehigh sees a “split political personality,” which seems to be a gentler way to say hypocrisy, in the commitment to storm relief from Texas Republicans and Trump, who have so bitterly opposed the Affordable Care Act. He points specifically to resistance by Texas leaders to expanding Medicaid in a state where 43 percent of low-income residents have no insurance, the highest rate in the country.

Though it lacks the urgent pull of disaster relief, “decent health care should also be considered a necessity,” he says. “After all, its absence can cost people their lives. And there is an abundance of federal resources to aid that effort.”

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, a fiscally conservative Republican whose state is now taking a hit from Harvey’s rains, said aiding those affected by the storm is exactly the role government is supposed to play.

“The lesson that I think most people will take from Harvey is that bad things happen to good people,” he tells the Globe. “Part of the role of government is to be there to take folks’ hard-earned taxpayer money and return it to them when, through no fault of their own, something bad happens to them.”

Some would argue that describes precisely the plight of low-wage workers without health coverage.

Meanwhile, there is talk of a double-standard at play even when limiting the discussion to storm relief. Some of the Republicans leading the call for the federal government to prepare to step up to help in the aftermath of Harvey — including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz —  were not nearly as enthusiastic about sending federal dollars in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which slammed New Jersey and other parts of the east coast in 2012.

The Washington Post fact-checker tried to sort out the issue by reviewing Cruz’s claim earlier this week that a $50 billion Sandy relief bill, which passed in early 2013 against Republican opposition, was loaded with pork. “Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy,” Cruz said in an interview on Monday.

As the Post review makes clear, the Sandy relief aid was complicated, with several votes on different measures. But it says “virtually all” of the $50 billion was allocated to deal with damage caused by Sandy. A lot of the spending was spread over several years, which may have been Cruz’s actual objection. When he objected to the bill in 2013, Cruz said “two-thirds of this spending is not remotely emergency.” The Post says that is typical, however, for long-term rebuilding efforts, and it gives Cruz “three Pinocchios” for his truth-stretching.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg cites New Hampshire moves into online lottery games in her bid to have the Massachusetts Lottery move online. She says Massachusetts is “sitting here like dead ducks.” (State House News)

The Massachusetts Cultural Council designated North Adams a cultural district, which was seen as an affirming step in the community’s transition from manufacturing to arts and culture. (Berkshire Eagle) North Adams, the home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, is a community struggling to develop a new economic base. (CommonWealth)

The state is unveiling a program that will grant free or reduced-price access to 100 museums or other venues to low-income residents with Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, which are mainly used for subsidized food assistance. (Boston Globe)

Michael Diener says outdated state laws make no sense, but they nevertheless are hard to repeal. (CommonWealth)

An Enterprise editorial slams the Brockton State House delegation for giving itself a pay raise earlier this year.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The attorney general’s office ruled the Kingston Board of Selectmen violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when three members met to vote on a one-day liquor license for the wedding of the son of a selectman without public notice or notifying two other members. (Patriot Ledger)

Brockton police cleared out a homeless encampment behind an elementary school a week before classes resume after parents complained to officials about drugs and prostitution at the site. (The Enterprise)

The Hopkinton Planning Board has ordered a developer to cease clearing a project site after the company allegedly committed repeated violations of the town’s scenic road bylaw. (MetroWest Daily News)

Manchester snags a $500,000 MassWorks state grant to dredge its harbor. (Gloucester Times)

Stone markers in the town of Groton that say “All are welcome” are coming under fire. (Lowell Sun)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

At least 30 deaths in Texas have been attributed to Hurricane Harvey, which has set a record for rainfall in the continental US and now has made landfall in Louisiana. President Trump, in Texas for a briefing on the impact, promised a full recovery that would avoid the mistakes of the past, but his visit had some head-scratching moments about his focus. (New York Times)

Congress has already begun mulling relief aid for areas in Texas devastated by Harvey even before any estimates of damage have been calculated. (U.S. News & World Report)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who proposed sending inmates from his jail to help build President Trump’s wall, has offered to ship some of them down to Texas to assist in the relief efforts in the wake of the hurricane. (Herald News)

Defense Secretary James Mattis has put a hold on Trump’s order to ban transgender troops from serving in the military while a panel of experts studies the impact of the order. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Radio host and restaurant owner Greg Hill is considering a Republican run for the congressional seat being vacated by Niki Tsongas. (Boston Herald)

Joe Battenfeld talks to Rep. John Delaney, a moderate congressman from Maryland who is the first declared Democratic candidate for president. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A Globe editorial endorses the call by Red Sox owner — and Globe publisher — John Henry to rename Yawkey Way, which runs alongside Fenway Park, because of former team owner Tom Yawkey’s racist views.

Domino’s pizza chain will begin testing a self-driving car to deliver pizzas in sections of Ann Arbor, Michigan. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Boston University and Wheelock College, which has been on shaky financial ground, are in talks about a possible merger. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

With Peter Pan bus lines abruptly terminating a partnership with Greyhound, the state could see a bus-fare war between the two carriers. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s pick to run the MBTA is coming under fire from the state Democratic Party because of financial problems at the last company he oversaw. (Eagle-Tribune)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hurricane Harvey could have ripple effects on federal flood insurance for those living along the coast in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

National Grid and Hydro-Quebec jockey for position in the competition for a Massachusetts clean energy contract as they debate the greenhouse-gas-emissions-cutting value of hydropower. (CommonWealth) The two companies sniped at each other in dueling op-eds, first by John Flynn of National Grid and then a response from Steve Demers of HQ. (CommonWealth)

A Florida company has proposed setting up a string of weather balloons outfitted with cameras from Chatham to Provincetown to track sharks that come too close to the beach. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

The Wynn Resorts casino in Everett is being built to withstand the effects of climate change. (WBUR)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court, saying it was the result of an illegal search, tossed out the conviction of a Watertown man who was found guilty of carrying a loaded handgun, alcohol and marijuana as he was trying to lie his way into Milton High School. (Patriot Ledger) The director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association decried the ruling, saying it seemed to “take the reasonable out of reasonable suspicion.” (Boston Herald)

The man accused of throwing a young girl from a bridge is suspended from his job at the Fay School in Southboro. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

A federal judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by Sarah Palin against the New York Times. (New York)

Jack Schafer of Politico says the Newseum in Washington deserves to die.