I will go on record as saying that I don’t think any federal tax money should be used to rebuild New Orleans. I accept that we, as a nation, need to take care of the refugees. I have no objections in that regard. But to pour money in to a below sea level pit to be washed away with the next major hurricane doesn’t strike me as something to which the nation’s taxpayers should be contributing.
I was reading an editorial about this in the local paper and the author, someone who grew up here but lived in New Orleans, complained that it was mean of people to call for New Orleans to be bulldozed. All I could think was “dude, it’s already been bulldozed”. Not to mention that I’m fine with people spending their own money to rebuild. But if it’s my money I’d prefer to have it spent on something slightly less risky.
Some say that since New Orleans is a major port for the Gulf of Mexico and that, geographically, there’s not much lee way on where it must be (on the Mississippi but not so far north that navigation is difficult for sea going vessels), we need to rebuild. Well, we may need to rebuild a port but that’s a tad bit different than rebuilding the city. Moveover, if the port is really that critical than we should pay via what are effectively “use fees” by have the city tax the movement of cargo. The costs of that tax can then be passed on to the consumers or shippers of that cargo. If shippers would rather use some other route than pay the tax, that just means that the port wasn’t all that critical in the first place. If local based taxes can’t support the city, then almost by definition the city doesn’t make economic sense which removes the only argument I consider a plausible defense of reconstruction.
That leads me on to thinking about the larger problem of flood insurance, disaster recovery, moral hazard and the build up on land that is at risk for frequent natural disasters. I have a plan that should appeal to both conservatives and environmentalists. That is simply change the disaster insurance / recovery laws so that if a piece of land (via its owners) makes a second claim less than N years after a previous claim, the claim is paid but the land becomes the property of the state or federal government to become a nature preserve. If you don’t want your land taken, then just don’t make claims on public money (use private insurance or pay for it yourself). This would also tend to convert the most at risk areas back to a natural state which is not only a lot cheaper but would help protect other areas from threats, particularly hurricanes. It might also encourage a view of the federal government as a helping hand and not a cash fountain, to be used only in emergencies at even then at some price.