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Thursday, September 1. 2011
Re flooding and our government-subsidized flood insurance, here's what I have been hearing on the radio from upstate NY and from Vermont:
Men: Why should the taxpayer subsidize anybody for living in a flood zone, even if it's only 100-year floods? Actuaries can easily cost it out. If you live near water and not on a hill, you will inevitably get flooded. Duh. Why should your calculated risk and choice be my problem? All it does is to promote building in the wrong places - and insulate people from reality - on my nickel.
Women: These people have lost so much. It's not their fault that they lived where they could get flooded. The government has to help them out and help them rebuild their homes and their lives. It's compassionate.
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I think the government should try to prevent deaths and injuries that might result from disasters. I think that during and after a disaster the government should do all it can to save lives and help people. I believe that certain departments of government like the fire department has a responsibility to prevent or mitigate property damage. But the government should not be in the business of insuring people and property or giving grants or making loans. States should and do have more responsibility for people and property then the federal government does and that is proper but even states should not be reimbursing people for property damage since they have to first take that money from the people who earned it. In the end everyone should take responsibility for themselves and their property. I pay a considerable amount of money every year for homeowners insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, I don't want to also pay for someone elses "insurance".
Well, if you live somewhere with high and frequent risks, you probably already are paying more for insurance to fund the high risk pool. Where else would the insurance companies get the money they are required to pay into those pools. If not your state, look at Florida or Hawaii. Beach houses in hurricane alley or tropical retreats on the side of active volcanoes have to be insured somehow. Otherwise, the wealthy would find vacationing on shifting sands to be distressing.
The four most important words in any marriage: "Your'e absolutely right, dear."
Thus we all pay for flood plain coverage. And FEMA, and Navy and Coast Guard helicopters, and overtime for emergency response teams, and so on.
Perhaps if all those services were rare and people could be billed for direct costs of rescue (as some of the mountain search and rescue teams do,) people would pay more attention to where they build their home.
The BEST response to this that I've heard is akin to the "Men" response above. It takes it a step further, though.
Generally speaking, I'm opposed to discussing government payment for much of anything. In the case of flood insurance - it's absurd. Not too different than health insurance provided by the government - it will promote poor behavior.
However, in a study of Army Corps of Engineer projects, a study I heard discussed on the radio after this recent storm (it was a hurricane here in NJ...not a horrid one, but bad enough in some areas), the commentator mentioned that ACE projects to control water routinely fail (most notably in New Orleans) for a variety of reasons. It isn't necessarily that they do poor work - sometimes it's the maintenance that isn't done. After all, why pay for something you only need once every 15 years (the average 100 year storm cycle...)?
His point being that the overall cost of building dikes, dams, levees, etc., then maintaining them, and THEN cleaning up the areas damaged due to building in zones deemed "residential and commercial" due to the work is excessive.
Better to take money potentially geared toward this, purchase the land back, pay to have the people move to areas that ARE safe, and turn the flood zones into something more reasonable.....like a park. Or something that requires much less work and won't require massive funds for cleanup after a storm.
The town of Bound Brook, near my home, is a classic example of this. In the 18 years I've lived in this area, Bound Brook has been flooded no less than 3 times. 4 times if you count a smaller, less damaging storm. Another town next to mine has been flooded 4 ti mes in the same period. AND the electric company was "wise" enough to build a substation smack in the middle of the flood zone! This has done wonders for our love of PSE&G after those 4 events.
The logic behind much of this work is often based on marginal costs. The cost of land in these areas is low. Of course it is. Anyone with half a brain knows what happens. But the overall costs of purchasing the land, then living or maintaining a business there rises exponentially with each storm.
Where's the logic now?
It's moved to "let the government provide insurance and/or help the people". Because NOBODY links paying for help with taxpayer money. And everyone knows that when it's time to pay, the rich should pay for you and me.
Um, it IS their fault that they lived where they could get flooded.
What are they, stupid? I have no responsibility to pay for the mistakes of the doofus class. If they aren't held responsible for their actions, how will they ever learn?
Stupid hurts, because it's supposed to.
Why do these enablers want to promote stupidity? They need to learn to look beyond the first layer. Let folks suffer today so they will do fewer stupid things tomorrow, and ultimately there will be less suffering (and waste!).
While I agree with fiftyville that he has no responsibility to pay for others actions, there are instances where the government is responsible. In Minot, North Dakota, there was a 500 year flood event this spring. Part of the problem was nature dumping 5-7 inches of rain, but the other part was the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). When they developed their dam handbook, the majority of people were from envrionmental organizations. As a result, the dams that were initally built to help with flood control and irrigation, but had been co-opted to serve envrionmental purposes, were too full to be able to handle the flood. If the dams were managed as multilple use (flood control, irrigation and animals), the flood may still have happened, but it may not have been nearly so bad.
As far as living in a flood zone, Minot had another major flood in 1969. The ACE built dikes that they said would contain the river in the event of another flood. With that statement on their minds, people built houses in a flood zone. Who is responsible now? The government said people were protected when in fact they were not. Approximately 1/3 of the residents were flooded. Where do you move 12,000 people? Housing was already in short supply due to the oil boom with the Bakken formation in North Dakota (unemployment ~ 3%).
Thus government creates the problem, then rushes in to try to solve it. And you are supposed to thank them.
This all goes back to the points I raised regarding the radio broadcast I'd heard on Bound Brook.
The ACE does fine work - but often it's handled poorly, or its prime goals are diverted.
Governments love creating crises they can then manipulate.
Bound Brook is an exercise in futility. It's ridiculous to keep rebuilding it. Should condemn it and turn it into a park.
We had a dam-worsened flood around here a few years back. They tried to keep the flood waters behind the dam, untill it would have overflowed the dam. The water then rushed down the river with such force that it caused much damage.