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When do budget cuts go too deep?

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Officials had no estimate of how much had already been spent on the effort. Altogether, the government's federal disaster fund has about $1.5 billion available.

In Tampa, the threat posed by Isaac was certainly not lost on conventioneers. The Republican Party delayed the gathering for a day because of the storm and from the dais speakers offered prayers for those in Isaac's path and wished them Godspeed. But the government's response to the storm and its expenditure of taxpayer dollars played out in sharp juxtaposition to the persistent calls for smaller government and criticism of Obama for presiding over an increase in the national debt.

"With $5 trillion in debt added over the last four years, we have no other option but to make the hard choices, cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.

Certainly no Republican suggested that the federal government had no role in helping states in an emergency. Indeed, GOP budget hawks often single out national security and public safety as essential government functions. And as Obama declared emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi and federal agencies mobilized in the face of Isaac's landfall, Gulf Coast states and their Republican officials welcomed government assistance. That's in addition to billions spent by the federal government upgrading the levee system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

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