Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another Modest Proposal: Charge Extra to Live in Disaster-Prone Areas of California


The California Legislature has a modest proposal under consideration. California spent $412 million fighting wildfires last fiscal year – a record. Just two weeks into the new budget year, the state has already burned through a third of that total. So the Legislature contends that if the State of California is to continue to protect homes in burn areas, owners must pay more fees for the priviledge of burning up.

Insurance companies love the idea. It's always in their best interest for us to pay more, and get less. Fire season in the West, Hurricane season in the East, Tornado season in the Midwest - it's always something. We should be expected to bear the brunt of it, right?

16 comments:

Randal Graves said...

Just wait until after we remove Saddam from power and all that oil cash will help the war pay for itself. All that leftover loot in our coffers? This post will be old hat by next week, just you wait and see.

Mary Ellen said...

Yeah, I love that the insurance companies sucker us into policies to protect our property against natural disasters, but the fine print says that we are not covered for natural disasters. I have to wonder if I had put all the money I paid out to home owners insurance in the bank instead...I'd have enough to re-build my house twice over. Wait...but then again with the bank runs and all....nevermind. We're screwed either way.

DrDon said...

I don't know how I feel about this one Diva. We're all paying anyway. Let's say the insurance companies don't raise rates and there is no surcharge. Okay, then when these disasters happen, the bill comes from the state or federal funds. Is that fair? I mean, wouldn't we all like to live on the coast, or in beautiful wooded areas of California? But many of us don't so should our tax dollars pay to protect and rebuild for people who do live in those areas?

Cleveland is pretty safe. We don't have a lot of tornadoes, no forest fires, no massive earthquakes. However some of our communities do get yearly flooding. I'm amazing how ever year these areas flood, the residents cry and bitch, and then rebuild/rennovate their house right on the same spot, many times on the taxpayer dollar.

So, I used to be a person who said that if you wanted to live in a dangerous area, you should pay extra, either in additional insurance or in some kind of taxe surcharge. And we should require insurance companies to actually cover the problems people buy insurance for. (although they pass these costs onto all of us so we'd still get stuck).

The problem I have now is that with climate change and other issues, natural disasters are striking or worsening in places where we didn't have them that often before. This isn't the residents fault so maybe they shouldn't be forced to pay for it. I don't know how I feel. I guess I do feel like people shouldn't keep living in places that are known to be repeatedly dangerous. Beyond that, I don't have the answer.

DivaJood said...

Randal, that's right. Once we get rid of that pesky Saddam... wait. He's dead. Thanks for playing, will someone tell Randal his consolation prize?

Mary Ellen, perhaps we should all put our money in shoe boxes and hide them under our beds, like Illinois Sec. of State Paul Powell who died in 1971 with $800,000 tucked away in shoe boxes, briefcases, all hidden away in the closet of his hotel in Springfield Illinois. That's being prepared.

drdon, I feel your confusion. I live in Los Angeles, by choice; I come from Chicago. But when insurance companies cap the amount they will pay, and charge us extra for it, something is definately wrong. I'm just saying.

Mathman6293 said...

It seems to me that there is no common good anymore in the sense that corporation don't seem to want to pay their share in the form of taxes. And the "Conservatives" have convinced many that we can't afford the common good anymore.

So we pay more for less insurance, less police and fire protection, less healthcare, and the list goes on and on. Except, we do to pay less for more quality teachers.

DivaJood said...

mathman, who needs teacher anyways? All they want to do is teach people to think or read or rite or add and subtrack. I don know what the big fuss about payin teachers is anyways.

Stella said...

Wild fires: don't get me started. This is one of the many reasons I think California should become its own country. Yes, secession. Really.

We have experienced more wild fires in June and July than any time I can remember—and I'm a Southern Californian. Before, now, wild fires occurred in August and September: now, we're pushed up to June and July with a terrible drought.

I like mathman's comment: he's right. Yes, Dr. Don, we should pay to preserve the California coastline. I can't afford to live there, but our coast is a national treasure.

However, you mention "people shouldn't keep living in places that are known to be repeatedly dangerous." So, no one should live in Baton Rouge (floods)? Or New England (killer blizzards)? Or Florida (tornadoes)? Or the Midwest (hurricanes)? Or California (earthquakes)

Every place has its natural disasters. Obviously, even Cleveland—but Dennis Kucinich makes up for that. I'm fine to let our tax dollars go to help others, rich and poor, rather than this untenable war. Thanks for getting me thinking, docdon.

DivaJood said...

Stella, we really should seceed. I mean, we are most of the nations GNP anyway.

DrDon said...

Stella - You're right, every place has something but not yearly. Snowstorms in New England and my own home town rarely kill people, except for those shoveling when they shouldn't. They also seldom lead to millions in property damage and government bailouts. And if a hurricane ever happens in the Midwest, then we've already lost our coastlines because hurricanes don't happen here.

Still, I understand what you're saying but I do think they are places people shouldn't live. They shouldn't live in flood plains that are devastated every year. They shouldn't live where forest fires rage every year. What is it with humans that we're just so damn stubborn that we feel we have to populate every square inch of the planet? There's plenty of safe space in Montana and Wyoming but no one wants to live there because there's no ocean and it's not 75 degrees every day. Oh well, that's too bad. If a person wants to live in paradise, then they have to pay the price and shouldn't expect taxpayers to bail them out.

Private insurance on the other hand, should be held accountable.

DivaJood said...

I dunno, drdon, I'd be very happy living on a huge ranch in Wyoming. With a cowboy.

Randal Graves said...

Unless he's brokeback. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

I think a corollary to what drdon is saying is that, environmentally speaking, it would be better if we lived closer to cities. We've built into our social DNA some bizarre right to huge tracts of land - Holy Grail! - and driving 100 miles round trip to our gated community. With the grocery store 50 miles the other way.

DivaJood said...

Randal, whew - I'm relieved, too much seriousness for one day. But yes, you are right - and to some small extent, I am in agreement with drdon - but many of the people most severly affected by the current round of fires in California are not the well-to-do or uburwealthy. Many are farmers. Many are people who've lived in local rural communities forever. Do they need to be over-taxed? What about the people in New Orleans' 9th Ward? The poor blacks who lost everything?

Our system of government gives tax breaks for the wealthy, and punishes the rest of us.

susan said...

A Californian I really enjoy reading is Mike Davis. His book Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster (2000) is really well worth your time. He talks about people deliberately building homes in areas that are natural fire paths when the Santa Ana winds blow. He's more than slightly Marxist but I don't have a problem with that.

DivaJood said...

Susan, I will find the book, thanks for the tip. And really, I read Walter Benjamin, who was completely Marxist - I have NO problem with that.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

I share your intense dislike of insurance companies. However, of the three natural disasters mentioned in your post, only one, the Tornado, is completely beyond your control. You can trim the landscape as you should, better yet you can choose not to build in the middle of a forest. You can build your house much further back from the waterline, and build it up on stilts. Such moves are expensive, to be sure. But when I hear of a house burning for the third time from wildfires, a home destroyed for the third time from a raging hurricane, imo, it's time to invoke what I call the "Stupidity Law." If you're that damn dumb to rebuild in the same place, you and you alone pay when it goes down again.

N. and S. Carolina, both of which I've lived in, face the same problem Californians do: money is drained out of the treasury, MY money, to rebuild and overhaul the beach so Joe Dumbass can build right back in the same spot again. Then after the fires, come the inevitable mud slides in California, and public money rebuilds the roads so Joe Dumbass can rebuild right on the very edge of the cliff again. There is such a thing as Common Sense.

DivaJood said...

Ah, TUA, and there is also the issue of whether the foreshore should be built upon anyway - or if the forests should have housing developments anyway. Some things might be better left pristine.