Should the government subsidize living in high-risk areas?

This morning's Washington Post has a timely article entitled The Lure of Coastal Life Outweighs The Risks. This excellent article dares to state the obvious: Americans, with the enthusiatic help of their government, continue to build homes and businesses in coastal areas prone to deadly storms and floods.

Some may reply "Hindsight is always 20/20. We could not have predicted the devestation wrought by Katrina."

But the sad truth is that the damage was predicted years ago, the warnings not heeded. It's a tragedy that so much life and property were lost needlessly.

I was not surprised to learn from the article, for example, that Senator Trent Lott used his position of influence to encourage the building of casinos along the Mississippi river — casinos that now all lie in ruin. That he then tried to sabotage the career of the Army secretary who urged a moratoriun on new waterfront casinos is just evidence of Senator Lott's ruthlessness.

Like Senator Lott, President Bush failed to consider the consequences of his actions. He cut the Army Corps of Engineers' budget three years in a row, eliminating the necessary funds for shoring up the levees that were supposed to protect New Orleans.

From the article:
The disaster in New Orleans "is not an act of God," said Benigno Aguirre, a professor at the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. "This is an act of man. The federal government refused to spend the money to improve the levees.

Flood insurance subsidized by the federal government makes the cost of coastal living artificially low, eliminating an important disincentive to living near the coast. Certainly, insurance companies will bear a large portion of the financial burder of rebuilding. But when FEMA and other government agencies can be counted on to come to the rescue again and again, the financial burder on costal inhabitants is again artifically lowered.

If people want to put themselves in the path of danger, why not let them? Well, the problem is that the money doesn't come from thin air. Whenever FEMA and the military rush in to offer aid, it is U.S. taxpayers in less disaster-prone areas who foot the bill.

The government should stop subsidizing dangerous lifestyles, or if they must continue, at least not try to do it on the cheap.

1 comment:

smaggi said...

Most people don't even buy the federal flood insurance and we still bail them out! The insurance industry will still find ways to weasel out of paying claims as they have historically done. The insurance companies invented something to get around water damage by claiming that it was caused by 'wind-driven rain.' No duh, hurricanes do that. So in the small print of their policies, they have that loophole written in.

But you're right, Trent Lott is a turd and the US Taxpayers will be rebuilding his house too as Bush got excited about that.

Sadly, I share a prediction that the rebuild New Orleans will be a miniature Disney park or Manhattan on the coast. Poor people will be priced out, forced to commute because someone needs to clean the toilets.

Oh, and the Republicans with spineless Democrats have suspended the Davis-Bacon Act indefinitely for reconstruction to "keep" wages down. Seems for the free market only when it comes to handing over contracts to their cronies, but screw the workers and taxpayers.