The California wildfires have so far destroyed an estimated nine thousand homes in Northern and Southern California. Thousands of men, women and children have lost everything except the clothing on their backs. Insurance is not going to cover all their needs.
In June 2017, I posted an article in Big Jolly Times on the Ike Dam. Most of the comments expressed strong opposition to the expenditure of any taxpayer funds to bail out people who are living in storm surge-prone areas since the government would be spending money it does not have. Rather than spending money on the Ike Dike, they suggested the people at risk purchase flood insurance. Most indicated that when you buy a home in a flood-prone area that’s a risk you have to assume. One comment even suggested I move to the Woodlands. The bottom line: No government expenditures to bail out those who lose everything to a hurricane.
Those comments are a good example of blaming the victim. Shame on them for moving into a flood-prone area. Shame on them for not buying flood insurance. Never mind that many of Harvey’s victims did have flood insurance. The attitudes expressed in those comments make conservatives appear to be insensitive to and uncaring about the losses suffered by flood victims.
If the areas devastated by California’s wildfires are declared a major disaster by the President, the fire victims will be entitled to the same federal aid as hurricane victims. But those opposed to the government providing aid to hurricane victims because they should not have moved into a flood-prone area must surely be just as opposed to the government providing aid to California’s wildfire victims.
Shame on those fools for buying homes in areas prone to forest fires. Losing everything to a wildfire is a risk they have to assume. Well and good. All of Northern California is forest land, much of Southern California is forest land and parts of Central California is forest land. The state has a population of about 40 million. I’m guessing at least half of the people in California are fools for living in or adjacent to fire-prone forest land. Shame on them! Screw them! They should have bought their homes in the desert.
If that is the attitude of Republicans, the GOP is headed for oblivion. Fortunately many Republicans do not believe that those who lose everything to a natural disaster should be left to fend for themselves.
We all believe the government should not be spending money it does not have. But if the government stopped spending money it does not have, it could no longer fund our military or provide welfare aid to the truly destitute … and no one is proposing that.
Sensitive and caring people, be they Democrats or Republicans, should not oppose providing federal funds for disaster relief aid to the victims of natural disasters.
Jim in Conroe says
People who buy homes in areas prone to natural disasters should be cognizant of the risks and insure themselves against those risks. The government may subsidize insurance against those risks, as they do now for flood insurance.
Pricing the risk factor into the cost of living in an area prone to natural disasters makes sense. It discourages people from taking unnecessary risks and encourages them to take steps to prevent or mitigate those risks, such as clearing brush from around buildings, installing sprinkler systems, or building stronger fire or flood resistant buildings.
Bailing people out and charging the tax payer encourages people to continue building in areas subject to natural disasters and rewards risky behavior.
Disaster relief funds should, none-the-less be made available, but it is relief, not a commitment to make someone whole and should be in the form of loans at subsidized interest rates, not grants.
Fred Flickinger says
The Federal Government has assumed almost all risk by declaring almost any significant tragedy a Federal Disaster Area with the corresponding subsequent payouts.
Has this really made us better off as a society?
We take risks today, that we would not otherwise take, if we were individually responsible for our choices.
You might think this is cruel, but look at the results of the additional risk we take on as individuals. How many more homes flooded during Harvey or suffered catastrophic losses during other disasters because the government helped us to purchase a home in an area prone to disasters?
Is it really compassionate for the Federal Government to enable people to take on this additional risk?
Obviously we have to help these people, but at some point in time we need to find a way to put this genie back in the bottle.
Having lived in the Houston area for 65+years I’m cognicent of many of the forces of nature and areas of town that are “no-man” zones. That being said I have insurance for most of the classes of losses that would be expected. Has anyone paid for my insurance? No, has anyone paid for any kind of losses? No.
Over the past 50 years I’ve paid out close to $10,000 average per year for insurance, and as low as $5,000 and as high as $50,000. That $500,000 could have paid for a lot of tuition, vacations, new cars, and other luxuries, but I chose a safer approach with greater sacrifice and more security. Everyone in Texas and California has the same choices as I have had. Sadly it is not my responsibility to pay for others decisions. SBA loans are available, but they’re not a handout as the next disaster is right around the corner.
Fat Albert says
Shame on you Howie for completely mischaracterizing the position of most conservatives. I have absolutely no problem with the government assisting those who suffer from floods, or fires, or earthquakes, tsunamis, meteor strikes, zombie hordes, or any other natural (or unnatural) disaster.
Just not the Federal Government. You know, the one with that little operating document called the Constitution. If Governor Abbott wants to send assistant to California, he should do so. Next year he can explain his actions to the voters. Perhaps our new County Judge would like for Harris County to pitch in????
There are two problems with the Federal government supplying disaster relief. First, it’s insanely inefficient and wasteful. Does anybody else remember the thousands of unused FEMA trailers after Katrina?
Second, it encourages policies that are counter-productive. For instance, does anybody know someone who has a home that has flooded multiple times? I can certainly see assisting a person who has a home that has flooded unexpectedly. But when that same person is asking for assistance to rebuild for the 3rd or 4th time, it’s reasonable to ask: “Why don’t you move?” In California they seem to suffer from wildfires on a regular basis – but they refuse to actually manage their forests to minimize risks.
Finally, there is no place in the Constitution where the Federal Government is directed to act as a disaster relief agency. As a conservative my goal is to encourage our politicians to actually act like the Constitution means something. This is simply one of many areas where we can encourage such behavior.
Howie Katz says
You’ve proved my point, Fat. I did not mischaracterize the position of conservatives who oppose federal disaster relief funds for those who lost their homes to a natural disaster.
You’re not stupid. You know very well the individual states struck by a natural disaster cannot pay the billions of dollars that a Harvey or the California wildfires would cost in aid to the disaster victims. And the fact that federal aid to the victims of Katrina was inefficient and wasteful is no reason to say the feds should not be the ones to provide that aid.
I agree with what you said about the homes that have flooded multiple times, but in the California wildfires most of those homes have never been burned up before.
As for the Constitution, what does that have to do with natural disasters? The Constitution is a document that governs the government. The Bill of Rights establishes certain rights that the government cannot deny us. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires the government to provide any disaster relief funds. However there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the government from providing those funds.
Fat, I do not think you’re that kind of a guy, but you come across as not giving a rat’s ass about the victims of a natural disaster.
Fat Albert says
In answer to “As for the Constitution, what does that have to do with natural disasters?” Let’s try the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Now I know you’re a Law Professor and probably know a lot more about legal stuff than I do. But, to my poor uneducated eyes what that says to me is that if the Constitution doesn’t specifically say that the Federal Government CAN do something, then the power to do that thing is reserved to the States.
As for not caring, I’ve already made several donations to disaster relief organizations dealing with the California fire.
Trey Rusk says
I’ll wager that some of the June 2017 commenters against compensation to flood prone areas that had staggering flood losses changed their minds after Harvey hit in August 2017. After Harvey, it appears that there is a much larger flood prone area than first thought.
The government should provide disaster relief for the people of California. It is a disaster.
Fred Flickinger says
You are absolutely correct, and that is the problem. Everyone is for government spending when it is being spent on them.
We are all for spending constraints when it doesn’t affect us.
Eventually when the debt explodes, it will affect everyone.
Mark Armstrong says
I don’t object to funds going to California for rebuilding after the fire. Although I have weathered storms in Houston from Alicia to Harvey, I haven’t been in the position to receive any largesse of governmental relief (unless you count the FEMA bags of ice that came after Ike or the road reconstruction that comes after major storms).
Additionally, I remember that — in the months following Ike and Harvey — the IRS allowed a little flexibility in filing for those who could prove a significant impact.
Still, I wonder if the Feds might consider another means of additional help (not in the line of additional programs, but more in the line of tax breaks for affected areas and for companies willing to invest in impacted areas).
Yo Howie? let’s assume a 50 year old 1,800sf house on a cliff overlooking the Pacific valued at $2.3million slips off the ledge following a tremor. Do we make that owner whole?
I’d prefer to go back to the days of insuring what you own and FEMA being the agency that provides 3% loans for disaster recovery. It sure seemed to work for a long time. Did Katrina change that model?
Bob Walsh says
I confess to some mixed feelings along these lines. Hurricanes are regular, recurring things. One would think after one’s house gets drowned three times in ten years that maybe mother nature does not want you to live there and you should freaking move. I feel much the same way for people who live in the middle of a forest. It’s pretty, but if it burns your house will burn unless you have a fire proof house (which DOES exist by the way). In CA this is to some extent now self-correcting as many insurance companies will no longer write fire insurance policies for houses so situated. The inability to get a mortgage will keep many, though not all, of the people out of such areas. Government (taxpayers) should NOT be in the business of continual subsidization of repeated stupidity.
yep. I know a couple near Cypress Creek that flooded at least 3 times that I know of and they came out in great shape every time. I believe the insurance rules or rates may have changed enough to not let that happen any more.
Trey Rusk says
Bob, I agree. Once is enough. Twice maybe if preventive methods had been put into place. I was very lucky during Harvey and did not flood. Water started to enter my foyer but stopped before doing any damage. They called it a thousand year flood. I don’t believe it. 80% of the homes in Dickinson, Texas suffered flood damage. We have a lot of senior citizens in their 80’s living on fixed incomes and they did not have flood insurance. FEMA made their homes livable but nothing more. Gypsy contractors came through and scammed a lot of seniors out of their FEMA money. A quarter of the businesses in town never reopened. I carry full coverage but it’s damn high. They make hurricane proof houses too, but only the mega rich can afford them. If it happens again, I’ll move.
Fat Albert says
I believe that this story from the estimable Davey Crockett is germane to the discussion:
“Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made homeless and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on.
“The weather was very cold and, when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced, appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.
“The next summer, when it began to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than in any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road.
“I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.
“I began: ‘Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and–‘
” ‘Yes, I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.’
“This was a sockdolager. . . . I begged him to tell me what was the matter.
” ‘Well, Colonel, it is hardly worthwhile to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not the capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case, you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine.”
‘I will say to you what, but for my rudeness I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest. But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.’
“I said, ‘I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any Constitutional question.’
” ‘No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live here in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?”
” ‘Well, my friend, I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.’
” ‘It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the treasury no more money than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means.
” ‘What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how many thousands are worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000.
‘If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.
‘No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week’s pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.
“The Congressmen chose to keep their own money which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people of Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is stipulation, and a violation of the Constitution.
‘So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.’
“NOT YOURS TO GIVE”
“I tell you, I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:
” ‘Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard.
‘If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.’
“He laughingly replied: ‘Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again on one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.’
‘If I don’t,’ said I, ‘I wish I may be shot; and, to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say, I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.’
‘No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.’
” ‘Well, I will be here. But, one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.’
” ‘My name is Bunce.’
” ‘Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.'”
Mr. Bunce is quite correct – and far more eloquent than I. I might add however that our situation is far worse, because Congress isn’t even giving from it’s abundance. Rather it is simply heaping more and more debt on our sons and daughters (and their sons and daughters ad infinitum).
Here’s another question. Why do we limit it to large scale disasters? Why not set up a government agency to help out anybody who encounters a major financial setback? What if your house burns down all by itself? Or maybe you make an honest but really bad investment and lose it all? Should the government have made all of the Enron victims whole? Victims of the Stanford Financial scandal? Victims of Bernie Madoff? Should we give them disaster relief?
Howie Katz says
Fat, my fiend, I strongly suggest you get your happy ass over to the federal courthouse to file a lawsuit against Congress and the Executive Branch to keep them from violating the Constitution by providing disaster relief funds to the victims of natural disasters. Be sure to ask for an immediate injunction so that Congress and the President cannot continue to violate the Constitution as your case works its way up to the Supreme Court.
Fat Albert says
Really? I’m a fiend simply because I oppose the notion that it’s OK for the government taking my money by force of threat simply to give it to someone else? I promise you that my ass is not at all happy about the situation.
By the way, the last time a private citizen tried to file such a case, they were denied standing. Federal Judges, in our current political system, are powerful, and political entities. For the most part they are not sympathetic with the idea of limiting the power fo the Federal Government. Eventually however I suspect that enough people will have their unhappy asses kicked enough that Jefferson’s prediction will come true.
Howie Katz says
Fat, those robber barons in Washington are taking a dime, or possibly even as much as a quarter, of your tax contributions every time they help victims of a natural disaster. Taking your dime or quarter by force or threat constitutes robbery, a felony. Quick, rush over to District Attorney Kim Ogg’s office and file a robbery complaint against Congress and the President.
You spent far more money with your contributions to charities offering help to the wildfire victims. That’s very nice of you. But those charities can only provide some clothing and food, and in the case of the Red Cross, some temporary shelter and a few dollars for gas and groceries. Those charities will not have the funds needed to help put the lives of the victims back together again. Only the federal government can help them do that
Contrary to what you believe, eventually I suspect that enough people will get fed up with fiendish Republicans opposed to federal disaster relief aid for people who lost everything to a natural disaster, to the extent that the GOP will be irrelevant.
Fat Albert says
Obviously you’re not interested in having an adult conversation about conservative political philosophy. Which is fine. Given your position, and your stated affiliation to the current Republican party, I would say you are correct – the GOP is irrelevant.
I’ve been told there’s a saying in the legal community: “Hard cases make bad law”. But hey! There’s always another group of people to give away money to. Tornado victims in the Midwest, Hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, Storm victims in the Northeast. . . . and let’s not forget the poor indigent refugees coming up from Central America! Those folks are gonna need some help!
But, I’m telling you. One of these days that ever shrinking part of our country that actually pays the bills is going to finally get tired of your Federalized Ponzi scheme. And when that day comes the results aren’t going to be pretty.
Trey Rusk says
Fat, that was a good story. I enjoyed reading it. However, we are talking apples and oranges. So far by estimate California has lost 9000 structures and 56 lives not including the 100 or so still missing. This is a disaster of the highest proportion, not a couple of cabins in the forest. I’m not suggesting that all the victims be made whole but they should be housed. I’m also not against low interest loans being available to the victims. I am against being too generous with other people’s money. U.S. Citizens are in peril. Now is the time to be mindful and benevolent.
I wish to remain anonymous says
20 plus trillion in debt..
Now that both parties have embraced welfare off all sorts, and thats what we are talking about, its over. As Howie pointed out, you have to be apart of the grand give away or you wont get elected. It was a fine experiment.