At this writing the Senate still hasn't approved the second-round $50+ billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill, but I'm not holding out much hope that it will go down to defeat, or for that matter be trimmed even a little. So it's time to further examine the infinite credit card mindset behind these things.
Yesterday the AP had a story raising the legitimate question of whether it's the right thing to rebuild yet again in some of those communities destroyed time and again by ocean storms. The story was picked up by numerous outlets. Here is the version at Newsday. But like almost everything from the press, the story is so totally infected by the infinite credit card mentality and ignorance of history as to be next to useless.
The headline is: Should worst-flooded areas be left after Sandy? Here's the response of Dina Long, mayor of Sea Bright, NJ:
"We're not retreating," said Dina Long, the mayor of Sea Bright, N.J., a chronically flooded spit of sand between the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River only slightly wider than the length of a football field in some spots. Three-quarters of its 1,400 residents are still homeless and the entire business district was wiped out; only four shops have managed to reopen. . . . But as in many other storm-damaged communities, there is a fierce will to survive, to rebuild and to restore. "Nobody has come to us and said we shouldn't exist," she said. "It is antithetical to the Jersey mindset, and particularly to the Sea Bright mindset. We're known for being strong, for being resilient, for not backing down."
Sounds like the voice of a brave fighter. Or is she a contemptible moocher? To me the answer entirely depends on whether the residents of Sea Bright are prepared to rebuild with their own money, or private insurance, or whether their so-called "strength" and "resiliency" is just a function of the hand-outs they can suck off the Federal credit card. Incredibly, the AP reporter is not curious enough to understand that this is the fundamental question. It is not asked. But we know the answer, since the $60 billion Federal hand-out is enough to pay for all legitimate losses from Sandy at least three times.
Well let's take a little look at the history of Sea Bright. When was the last time it was flooded by some combination of its ocean and river? That would be 2010. Here's a story about the 2010 storm and its aftermath:
“Sea Bright families are still recovering from the effects of the snowstorm that hit the area and destroyed local families’ homes back in 2010. This funding will help fully repair the damage caused; it will also bolster the relevant public infrastructure to prevent future damage from the regular storms and floods that affect area,” said New Jersey U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.
The Federal funding in question would be $1.4 million to build and repair bulkheads "to minimize [future] flood damage." Looks like that money went straight down the rat hole.
And the next previous flood at Sea Bright? Why, that would be September 2009! Here is a youtube story with a video of the ocean flowing up onto the streets.
Before that, it seems you have to go all the way back to 1992. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post lived there at the time, and wrote a recent story for the Post describing his experience in the horrific 1992 destruction. Oh, but here in a blog post from 2005 called "The Jersey Shore Real Estate Bubble" we have a description of houses for sale "north of $3 million" on the very site of properties destroyed in the 1992 storm. Those would be the houses just now destroyed and that the taxpayers must pay for.
Next, a policy paper from Rutgers University (for those who don't know, it's the state university of New Jersey) listing other major storms that destroyed Sea Bright, going back into the 19th century:
1962 The Great Ash Wednesday Northeaster
1944 - Great Atlantic Storm
Christmas Storm and Jan. 1914 Storm - caused massive destruction
1890s - storms repeatedly destroyed wooden bulkheads and battered many of the cottages in Sea Bright
And here is NJ Governor Christie calling the House of Representatives "disgusting" for postponing a vote on Federal relief to bail out these people for the umpteenth time. Really, Governor Christie? Perhaps I am the only person in the United States who finds it disgusting that the Congress votes $60 billion of Federal taxpayer money to bail out everyone who built anything on the coast that got destroyed. But it is disgusting, and it's time for a few other people to join me.
Back to the AP story. They have the idea that the only possible alternative to Federal hand-outs to rebuild again and again is "buyouts" of the affected property owners.
If buyouts did occur, [Prof. Jon Miller of Stevens Institute of Technology] predicted they would happen in areas with lower property values because of the high cost of buying up prime coastal real estate. That could have the unintended consequence of placing the shore off-limits to all but the wealthy, he said.
It's like the idea of letting people suffer their own losses, or buy their own insurance, doesn't even occur to them. It's beyond the pale! The mindset is: of course it's obvious that the taxpayers must either bail out or buy out the people who just bought newly built $3 million homes in a community that has been destroyed by the ocean seven times in the last 130 years. Am I the only person who is willing to say no to this insanity?