Watching the coverage of the aftermath of Sandy, I was glad to see Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey getting along so well with President Obama. We have enough issues to be divisive over; let’s not make more.
No matter what else President Obama has done during his term in office, he has shown himself at the forefront of this disaster. At this juncture, his cordial appearance with a Republican governor appeases voters—sort of like having a normally combative Mom and Dad pulling together in the face of a real problem.
That being said, it’s time to implement some policies to reduce the burden on the entire country of natural disasters like this one. Used to be, people had to congregate near water. They had no choice. If they didn’t have access to fresh water for drinking and irrigation, fresh and salt water for transportation, they would not be able to survive.
Not so much anymore. We can obtain fresh water from deep below ground, and rail and truck transportation augment the ships at sea. Now people only need to be near water for recreational purposes. We should consider this when commencing the major rebuild that is in the making for the East Coast.
It will be next to impossible to move any city wholesale away from its perch on the shore, but we can begin the process of giving up the barrier islands except to those who can afford to pay for their own replacement. In the process of reducing the burden of governmental policies, it’s time to give up taxpayer-backed flood insurance. Pay off the people who incurred losses from Sandy, but only if they rebuild away from the coast, and then refuse to provide them with further insurance.
Private companies have already declined the opportunity to provide coverage for people who build along the coast—maybe they know something. Yes, this will be a massive undertaking, yes, it will take years, yes, it will be difficult to relocate so many people and build the infrastructure they will need. But there will never be an better time. There will never be fewer people. It will not be easier once the barrier islands have been rebuilt (again), and the houses have been rebuilt (again), and we are all waiting for the next disaster to occur (again).
Is it fair to pick on the people who have come to expect the flood insurance? No. Is it fair that the only people who will be able to live on the coast are those who can afford to rebuild at their own expense? No. But neither is it fair that the entire country supports an unsupportable system: there will be another hurricane; there will be more people hurt; there will be more damage. It’s true that it will most likely take billions to remove people into the interior, but it will take billions to set them back up exactly where they are, and billions more to fix them up again next time.
So between us and them, I pick us. I recognize that nowhere in the world is entirely safe from the effects of stormy weather of whatever type, but that doesn’t mean that we have to put ourselves out on the edge of disaster on purpose. And not only do we need to stop the wasteful flood insurance, but the re-creation of the beaches every time they erode needs to halt. If we are able to remove enough of the buildings and roads that creep ever closer to the high tide mark, we will be able to enjoy the new beaches that are deposited as the old beaches are swept away.
It is only commercial enterprises that need to have beaches remain exactly where they are, and there is no reason that the taxpayers ought to be subsidizing private business. In fact, unlike millennia ago, when households needed to be close to water sources, now it is the businesses who need access to those lanes of transportation. And they must fight for beachfront access with people whose lifestyles are being artificially propped up by the rest of us. That means that the cost of goods run through ports is much higher than it would be if there were no competition with people who are being funded by the entire tax base of the United States.
It would also be helpful if some of the money the taxpayers are sending to the East Coast could be used to begin the process of updating the infrastructure, but we’ll have to wait to see if that has a ghost of a chance of happening.
Nota bene: I was all prepared to rant about the UN observers being invited in by the State Department to monitor our elections, till I did some research and found out that they’ve been coming here since President Bush started inviting them. We have enough differences without demonizing other people. There’s no need to go off half-cocked, without knowing all the facts. We can come up with enough disagreement over real issues, and if I get an opportunity to squelch unfounded rumors and disinformation I am going to take it. It’s better to be credible on a few issues than to lose all credibility on all issues.
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