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10/05/05

Copyright 2005 David C. Loebig

Random Digressions

 

Pitfalls of Katrina Recovery: A Tax Payer’s Concerns

Am I the only one thinking like this: Is it worth spending all the money it will take to rebuild New Orleans the way it was where it was?

Maybe that sounds harsh, but I’m not saying we should leave our fellow citizens stricken. In fact, the federal government should provide across-the-board support for them.

It must be horrible to be displaced so traumatically, to lose a home and a hometown. I imagine the human suffering, and then I feel a little guilty about questioning the reconstruction of New Orleans.

We all send our tax dollars to Uncle Sam for the benefits of living under a collective system, which includes support from the whole nation when any part suffers a disaster. So our fellow citizens from New Orleans deserve our help.

But when it comes to rebuilding the city, I’m torn. Hundreds of thousands of people call it home, but it is really just material goods...cement, wood, shingles and products.

If I were to propose that government give me a grant to build a wall into Lake Okeechobee, and to drain the area within the wall, and to build a city within that area, would anybody call that a bad idea? It would cost only $350 billion.

I could say we could relocate Katrina victims there, but it would still be a bad idea because there are better ways to spend that money like building somewhere that isn’t in a bowl inside a lake. Am I the only one thinking like this?

No matter how we approach it, we’re going to spend a lot of money on Katrina recovery, but if we rebuild New Orleans where it was, who will live there? Will the displaced be able to afford living there? Who will insure it? Will the government become the insurer of last resort? If the levies break again, is the government liable? Will the government be stuck with the bill for maintaining ever more costly levies? Is it going to become a huge government entitlement program?

I heard a news story that out-of-state real estate investors are already buying New Orleans properties at prices higher than they were at before Katrina. Are we going to spend billions to rebuild for the benefit of speculators?

Nobody would support my Lake Okeechobee plan for its obvious failings. While rebuilding New Orleans is a significantly different case, the plan suffers the same failings. It’s cheaper and safer to build someplace that isn’t in a lake.

Of course, we attach social and personal value to our neighborhoods, our homes, our communities. They take on significant personal and national meaning. So I’m torn about it.

We have to secure and rebuild parts of New Orleans and support the personal and economic recovery of the victims, but I hope Congress thinks carefully about spending our billions. I hope they don’t rush to fulfill politically expedient promises. However they choose to go, I hope they exercise some wisdom and common sense as they spend our billions.

Am I the only one thinking like this?

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Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. area. You can banter with him at RandomDigressions.com.

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