Saturday, February 11, 2006

Once Again: the Gulf Coast is Part of the U.S.A.

Two opinions in USA Today. The paper’s and Rep. Richard Baker’s.

Full disclosure: I am not a supporter of the Baker Plan. I would rather see 60% of a home’s pre-Katrina value go to rebuilding that home, not buying it out.

I am also not a supporter of being scolded by a callous editorial board. USA Today, like our President, has forgotten that our part of the world is their part of the world. And in listing its gripes with the Baker Plan, USA Today shows that it has also forgotten how to treat fellow Americans.

Gripe #1: “Unknown price tag.”

I have news for America. Rebuilding the Gulf Coast will take a lot of money over a long period of time. Deal. If my brother needed an expensive surgery to save his life, I would go bankrupt to get him that surgery. That’s what brothers do. Your brothers and sisters on the Gulf Coast need an expensive surgery to continue living.

Gripe #2: “No guarantee.”

I can’t help you with that one. Nothing is guaranteed in life. The Army Corps guaranteed that the levees would hold in a slow moving Category 3 hurricane. It only took Cat 1 - 2 winds and surge for the levees to come tumbling down. Now we are “guaranteed” the same protection by the start of the next hurricane season. Can’t wait.

Gripe #3: “Questionable recipients.”

According to USA Today, a 40% loss for lenders is a “reward.” They believe that lenders should be punished because a catastrophic hurricane hit the Gulf Coast where the lenders dared sell insurance policies to reckless fools.

Gripe #4: “Dangerous precedent.”

Yes, helping your brother and sister Americans in need would be a dangerous precedent. If you help the Gulf Coast residents, you might have to start helping other Americans in need, like the poor, the homeless, the sick – the people so many worked so hard to sweep under the rug. We can’t have that. We can’t have citizens of the United States of America being lead “to expect similar aid in the next catastrophe.” Americans must be taught a lesson.

The editorial then acknowledges everything I just bitched about and still says:
Even so, aid programs that lack accountability to taxpayers or a clear plan for rebuilding would make matters worse.
I *am* a taxpayer. I am trying to hold my government accountable. But people outside the Gulf Coast keep saying things like this USA Today editorial. They are treating us like we are not Americans.

Rep. Baker in his editorial makes an excellent pitch for why the Gulf Coast should receive at least $12 billion towards housing issues:
In nearly six months, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent more than $8 billion on Gulf Coast "housing," for such things as trailers, motels and cruise ships. While helpful, these "temporary" arrangements aren't solutions. For 50% more over 10 years, the LRC would allow people to make long-term housing plans, while laying a path to rebuild a vast portion of a vital state.
I would just prefer that the money went to building up houses and residents staying, not buying out houses and residents leaving. My objection to the Baker Bill is that it does not do enough to retain population and would shut the door on a lot of residents who may want to return and rebuild, but their only way out financially would be the government buy-out.

Baker does provide this gem, though:
Offering philosophical objections but no workable alternative does nothing to address the reality. If there's a fairer, more effective and fiscally responsible plan, I'd like to hear it.


Polimom said...

Po' Boy - actually, Nicole Gelinas at the City-Journal had some suggestions as to how the Baker Bill could be modified, and the residents themselves could take on responsibility for rebuilding.

I wrote about it yesterday, but I was feeling pretty grumpy at the time.

da po' boy said...

Thanks. That's a good article. I had just read your excerpts before.
But it seems to make the same point I am trying to make - that the Baker Plan isn't much of a plan, unless you want everyone to sell their houses and leave. The last paragraph suggests we give money directly to homeowners to *rebuild*. Sounds good to me.
I meant to berade USA Today more than the Baker Bill with this post, but I guess it came off the wrong way. USA Today just gets on my nerves.