Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why rebuild New Orleans?

Louisana's Senators are asking for $250 billion in Federal taxpayers money to rebuild in Louisana. Roughly $40 billion of that is to build better levies and floodgates around New Orleans. All told, almost $200 billion of it goes to the New Orleans area. On a per-capita basis, it works out to $650,000 per New Orleans resident.

I have a few questions about the concept here.

First, where does the insurance settlement money figure into this equation? One would hope that most of the people whose homes and businesses were destroyed have insurance which will pay for the damage. Does the $200 billion only cover the property which was not insured? If so, is that a good idea? People should be encouraged to insure their property, and if the taxpayers are going to bail out those who don't insure their property, why should anyone carry insurance? Living in a flood plain on the coast, below sea level, in the most active hurricane region in the world and not carrying flood or hurricane insurance is not the smartest course of action I can imagine, and I am firmly against requiring responsible taxpayers to pay for the stupidity of irresponsible people.

Secondly, who is going to oversee the use of this money? A vast government handout such as this will invariably draw a large amount of fraud, waste, and corruption. I want to see tight accounting on this money, and extensive crosschecks into the validity of every request for funds. The proposed system looks more like a huge pork distribution than a relief effort. The organization which is slated to manage the money does not include any Federal oversite of the Federal money, and it does not appear to have the resources to prevent abuse. This must be resolved before the first dollar goes out. Otherwise, five years from now the taxpayers will be out a quarter of a trillion dollars with nothing to show for it.

Now we get to the real point of this article. Why are taxpayers in Texas, California, New York, Montana, Illinois, and so forth being asked to pay to rebuild New Orleans? Perhaps we should learn from this disaster that building a city below sea level in the path of repeated hurricanes is a bad idea. If someone wants to build there, by all means, go for it. But don't ask those of us with the good sense to build our house above sea level to pay for the predictable rebuilding and re-rebuilding. Certainly, paying $650,000 per person is not reasonable. Why not pay $200,000 per person, with the stipulation that they build elsewhere?

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