Monday, October 03, 2005

Look to Northridge...

I was reading over NOVA Scout's comments for my post on the fire in Los Angeles and he brought up a good point; this small region is an area that has become accustomed to natural disasters. The Northridge Quake of 1994, the earth-shaker of 20 years earlier that inspired the movie "Earthquake", and regular fires due to the Santa Anna winds all have ravaged this small area we call San Fernando Valley; particularly Canoga Park, West Hills, and Northridge. This area is routinely damaged in someway and completely rebuilt by the residents that feel so strongly about the area. My question is, why can't this model be used in New Orleans? Prior to Katrina the costliest natural disaster in our nations history had been the Northridge Quake of 1994. You saw $44 billion in direct property damage with over $800 billion in replacement value. While this number is smaller than the estimated $200 billion in damage in New Orleans, it was still a significant amount of destruction. So, what did Los Angeles do to recover? Massive federal aid did not flood into the city to fix what had been broken. Rather the natural course of our economy kicked in. Regular insurance money coupled with FEMA assistance for the lower-class helped rebuild the overall economy of the San Fernando Valley. Infact, the economy actually came out of the disaster stronger than it has entered the disaster during the early 90's recession. And this is an area that is not exactly the most affluent portion of the Greater Los Angeles region. (Despite the preconceived notion of "The Valley" from the 1970's it has become an interesting mix of upper-class whites and lower-class immigrant workers and surfer dudes.) So, why can we not expect New Orleans to do the same? The desire to drop massive amounts of federal dollars into the area seems almost foolish. The most effective course of action for the government in my opinion is to spend dollars on fortifying and preparing hurricane measures for next time and building them to Category 5 levels. Doing so would help return overall confidence in the viability of New Orleans and many of the surrounding areas and perhaps encourage many people to actually return to the area. Once that happens the natural entreprenuerial spirit that is engrained in all Americans will take hold. A little bit of elbow grease and a desire to rebuild ones life is the key to returning New Orleans and the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast to its previous economic levels. A massive influx of federal dollars will only delay scheduled tax cuts or hinder other programs. The former being something that will truly slow down our entire economy as well as hinder the overall recovery of the Gulf Coast.

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