Monday, May 15, 2006

Government Disaster Systems Allowed To Deteriorate

There are two articles this morning that show that our protection against disasters continues to deteriorate, months after Hurricane Katrina proved it is not adequate.

The New York Times has a piece (www.nytimes.com) that describes how the government's flood insurance system is in a state of collapse, and the L.A. Times (www.latimes.com) one that nails Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the wall for failing to finance the State Seismic Safety Commission or to enforce state statutes requiring earthquake safely.

Both derelictions are due, in part, to the evil insurance lobby, which consistently opposes constructive action in these areas. When, as is the case with the Schwarzenegger Administration, the insurers have their man right in the governor's office, raising money for the governor's reelection, there is seemingly nothing that can be done to make him an honest man.

The selfish, short sighted real estate and insurance professions, always ready to sacrifice safeguards that save lives to their desires for cheap property and construction, are the bane of us all.

They, plus neglect by crooked politicians in Congress and the executive branches, so dependent on their campaign contributions, have allowed the systems that give us the wherewithal to deal with disasters to almost vanish. An exception, however, is State Sen. Elaine Alquist's bill to enforce seismic safety standards. Like her late husband, Sen. Alfred Alquist, who died recently, Alquist persists in upholding the public interest.

The flood insurance system virtually collapsed with Katrina, not enough to deal with the destruction in New Orleans. As the new hurricane season is about to begin, the levees have not been reconstructed and thousands of ruined homes still await the least government action. Now, the New York Times tells us, Congress is failing to act to put flood insurance on a sound footing. It would require more people to pay higher premiums, but this is one of the costs of home ownership that should not be neglected.

Meanwhile, the insincere Schwarzenegger, with his unsavory executive secretary, Susan Kennedy, gives speeches about seismic safety while refusing to implement its requirements. The governor recently took steps to exempt the community colleges from seismic safety measures. If an earthquake should strike during the school day, hundreds or even thousands could die in the ensuing collapses. The governor would be directly responsible for the loss of life.

If government were coming to the aid of disaster victims after the fact, that would at least be some solace. But in Katrina we see that disaster aid has been inadequate, despite the promises of the Bush Administration. Night after night on TV we see the pictures of a city that has been allowed to rot in the post-disaster period.

We just don't care for the future as much anymore as we should. Our children and grandchildren will ultimately pay the price.

And meanwhile we should elect public officials who will do their duty.

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