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Jindal: federal government should do less (except when it should do more)

Rhetoric, meet reality.

As Tropical Storm Hurricane Isaac barrels toward the Louisiana coast, the state’s Republican governor is asking the federal government to do more.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on Monday as that state and others along the Gulf Coast prepared for Tropical Storm Isaac.

The White House said Obama informed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal of the emergency declaration in a phone call. The declaration makes federal support available to save lives, protect public health and safety and preserve property in coastal areas.

Jindal, a Republican, shot back late Monday in a letter to the Obama administration that the declaration fell short of the help he was requesting.

“We appreciate your response to our request and your approval,” Jindal wrote. “However, the state’s original request for federal assistance … included a request for reimbursement for all emergency protective measures. The federal declaration of emergency only provides for direct federal assistance.”

Now it’s entirely possible that Jindal’s request for more aid is justified. I am among those who believe the federal government has a clear responsibility to help states and localities deal with natural disasters.

But it’s worth recalling that Jindal’s rhetoric has often suggested a different attitude toward “big government.”

In his response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address, Jindal said:

Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government. We [Republicans] place our hope in you — the American people.

In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the national Democrats’ view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.

In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust — and rightly so.

At any rate, it is perhaps fortunate for the residents of Louisiana and the other states threatened by Isaac that the Senate has a Democratic majority.

Patricia Murphy writes at The Washington Post:

[I]n 2011, the House Appropriations Committee… voted to cut NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter program by 40 percent, while FEMA First Responder grants were cut by $816 million and the FEMA National Pre-disaster Mitigation Fund lost $50 million in the Republican plan. But does any of this affect the GOP ticket? It could, since Rep. Paul Ryan’s most recent budget also made major cuts to “Function 450″ funds, which pay for domestic programs including FEMA. The Ryan budget passed the House 228 to 191, but died in the Senate. But the debate over the size and scope of the federal government– along with who should pay for it all– has continued and is now the central question in this year’s presidential election.