Last night, a star-studded cast of musicians and comedians including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Alicia Keys, and Jon Stewart performed for six hours at Madison Square Garden to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. It is still to early to tell how much the benefit raised in total, but ticket sales alone brought in over $30 million.

Americans clearly want to do all they can to help Sandy victims. Any politician standing in the way of ‘emergency’ relief is sure to be pilloried by the media. But shouldn’t there be some limit to how much money is devoted to the region? And shouldn’t that money be limited to addressing true ‘emergency’ needs?

Not according to the $60.4 billion request the Obama administration submitted to Congress for Hurricane Sandy relief spending last week. According to a Congressional Budget Office report released yesterday just $21.7 billion of the total will be spent before October 2014. And only half the money is scheduled to be spent by 2015. This is for a storm that occurred in 2012.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency currently has just $6 billion cash on hand that can be devoted to help Sandy victims. More is needed. And House Republicans are more than eager to pony up billions more in funding. But $60 billion, more than half of which will not be spent for over three years, does not qualify as emergency spending.

For example, Obama’s spending request includes more than $15 billion for Community Development Block Grants. While this spending program has a nice sounding name, taxpayers may not be happy to hear how the program spent past ‘emergency’ funds. After 9/11, the CDBG was given $3.4 billion in disaster relief spending and these are just some of the items it went to:

$700,000 for 3 years of summertime cultural festivals in lower Manhattan;
$250,000 for 2 years of free public art exhibits in City Hall Park;
$100,000 for a new climate control system for the Museum of American Finance.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., told Politico that he would be willing to provide a first tranche of emergency spending now and then consider more long-term spending projects later in the spring. How is that not a more reasonable approach?

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: Hated IRS ends its most popular program
Joel Gehrke: Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t plan to run for president in 2016
Phil Klein: Make the Bush tax cuts permanent for incomes under $250,000
Michael Barone: Reddish behavior in bluish states
Tim Carney: Obama pleaded poverty but spent as much as Romney

In Other News
The Wall Street Journal, Fed Ties Rates to Joblessness: The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it would enter 2013 with a plan to purchase $85 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities until it saw the unemployment rate fall to 6.5%.
The New York Times, Syria Uses Scud Missiles in New Effort to Push Back Rebels: President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have resorted to firing ballistic missiles at rebel fighters inside Syria, Obama administration officials said Wednesday, escalating a nearly two-year-old civil war as the government struggles to slow the momentum of a gaining insurgency.
The Washington Post, Executives push for ‘fiscal cliff’ deal: With corporate tax rates and tax breaks up for grabs, chief executives are personally stepping forward to lobby Congress and the White House on taxes, seeking to set priorities while conceding that some taxes will have to go up.
Associated Press, Election over, administration unleashes new rules: While the “fiscal cliff” of looming tax increases and spending cuts dominates political conversation in Washington, some Republicans and business groups see signs of a “regulatory cliff” that they say could be just as damaging to the economy.

Righty Playbook
Walter Russell Mead on Michigan and the unraveling of the blue state model.
The Heritage Foundation‘s James Sherk explodes the left’s freedom to freeload myth.
Keith Hennessy advises Republicans to pass the Senate tax hike instead of whatever deal Boehner reaches with Obama.

Lefty Playbook
Matt Miller says the Ryan Budget is Obama’s debt ceiling trump card. is tracking which Senate Democrats are “weak-kneed” on cutting entitlements.
University of California at Santa Barbara labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein tells The Washington Post, “Can we have a liberal America without unions? History says no.”