Trump to California Wildfire Victims: Drop Dead

In a move reminiscent of President Gerald Ford’s refusal to bail out a cash-strapped New York City in 1975, Donald Trump has rejected California’s request for a federal emergency declaration that would make hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding available to people affected by wildfires that have devastated the state.

Ford’s rejection of aid to New York prompted the infamous New York Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” The Trump administration’s rejection of California’s aid request means that it will not provide disaster relief funds to help clean up damage from six massive fires that have burned almost two million acres and destroyed almost 1,000 homes. One large fire continues to burn in the central California counties of Fresno and Madera.

(Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

The state said late Thursday that it was given no reason for the aid request being rejected and said it will appeal the decision. The move follows a pattern of Trump either threatening to or actually withholding federal assistance to states run by Democratic governors. After wildfires swept the state in 2019 a Trump tweet said he would prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from assisting California “unless they get their act together.” Ultimately the state did receive federal assistance.

Trump visited the state in September and met with Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat with whom he has feuded over a number of issues. The president has frequently criticized the state for what he calls poor forest management that has exacerbated the severity of recent fires. What’s Trump’s comments ignore, however, is that more than half of California’s forest land is under federal control.

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