The Cost of Crisis

With 125 people dead, more than 230 people unaccounted for and wreckage that spans miles and miles, Joplin, Missouri is reeling from the devastating tornado that touched down earlier this week.

It will cost billions to restore the town - but, with the U.S. in financial straits of its own, it's billions that won't necessarily come easy.

Today on Varney & Co., former FEMA Director Mike Brown said the U.S.'s current financial situation is posing greater problems for the Joplin cleanup than it did six years ago when Katrina struck.

"Think about 9/11. There was no question we would appropriate whatever it took to do things to clean up lower Manhattan, same thing for Katrina. Now 40 or 50 cents of every single dollar we spend at the federal level is borrowed."

Despite being $300 billion in debt; the U.S. was able to appropriate more than $100 billion in 2005 to aid the Katrina relief efforts. Today, though the U.S. is just months away from reaching its $14.9 trillion limit, Brown says the government may be able to dig into unspent funds to cover the cost of the Joplin disaster.

"There is a very good secret in that story," he said. "All of the money that Congress has appropriated even over the past five years that Congress hasn't been spent. All of that money can still be tapped."

Brown explains that since Congress builds money into its budget that it does not spend right away, "there may be pockets of money from one, two, three, four years ago they can still tap into."

The government has proposed a different plan to finance Joplin's restoration. It plans to take $1.5 billion out of the fuel efficient car loan program, and direct it towards Joplin.

While Brown believes this will be enough to cover Joplin's most recent disaster, he says it is there is a possibility the town could be hit again.

"We're just now getting into hurricane season. We're just now in the middle of tornado season. We'll have all the floods," said Brown.

With the possibility of more disaster lurking, Brown says a radical reform of the economy will be needed to ensure aid is available whenever it is needed.

"The only thing that will make this work is if we turn this economy around."