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Thursday, May 8

Backassward U.S. flood response policy: Skimp on defenses then spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the cleanup

The cynical reaction might be that this is an example of disaster capitalism but the term is misleading if one thinks of capitalism as contributing to progress.  There's rarely progress in these kinds of rebuilding situations unless the disaster is so great it forces a new approach.  The new approaches are out there regarding dealing with flooding from weather related events but they aren't being deployed enough to make a significant difference.  The upshot is like setting a match to billions of dollars.  That ain't capitalism; that's dumb.
The entire report (very well written, I might add) I quote from below is an important contribution to the flood issue but here are just the passages that highlight government's approach to flood response management in the USA. See the website for the source links provided in the text:
Flood, Rebuild, Repeat: Are We Ready for a Superstorm Sandy Every Other Year?

Kate Sheppard
The Atlantic Cities
Jul 29, 2013

Roughly 123 million of us -- 39 percent of the US population -- dwell in coastal counties. And that spells trouble: 50 percent of the nation's shorelines, 11,200 miles in all, are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the problem isn't so much that the surf laps a few inches higher: It's what happens to all that extra water during a storm.

We're already getting a taste of what this will mean. Hurricane Sandy is expected to cost the federal government $60 billion. Over the past three years, 10 other storms have each caused more than $1 billion in damage. In 2011, the federal government declared a record 99 weather-related major disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires. The United States averaged 56 such disasters per year from 2000 to 2010, and a mere 18 a year in the 1960s.

The consequences for the federal budget are staggering. In just the past two years, natural disasters have cost the Treasury $188 billion—nearly $2 billion a week. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which covers more than $1 trillion in assets, is one of the nation's largest fiscal liabilities. The program went $16 billion in the hole on Hurricane Katrina, and after Sandy it will be at least $25 billion in debt—a deficit unlikely ever to be fixed.

Meanwhile, Washington is stuck in an endless cycle of disaster response. The US government spends billions of dollars on disasters after they happen, but it pinches pennies when it comes to preparing for them.

And both federal and state policies create incentives for people to build and rebuild in increasingly risky coastal areas.

"The large fiscal machinery at the federal level is cranking ahead as if there's no sea level rise, and as if Sandy never happened," says David Conrad, a water consultant who has been working on flood policy for decades. "This issue is moving so much faster than the governmental apparatus right now."

Put another way: We're already deep under water.

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