Hurricane Sandy Generates Economic Activity at the Expense of those who Lost Their Homes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 25th, 2012

Week in Review

Hurricane Sandy left a swathe of destruction in its path.  But it turns out there is a silver lining to this death and destruction.  It’s providing an economic stimulus.  A regular Keynesian stimulus bill.  Only without the messiness of having to get a majority vote in Congress.  Something the politicians can really get behind.  If only they could get a hurricane generating machine (see Sandy Seen Boosting U.S. With as Much as $240 Billion Rebuilding by Jeff Kearns, Susanna Pak and Noah Buhayar posted 11/23/2012 on Bloomberg).

John Cataneo is working his 20 employees overtime and still can’t keep up with demand from customers who need plumbing repaired after superstorm Sandy. He says he’s hired two new workers and may need more…

Cataneo’s experience shows how the storm is giving the U.S. Northeast — and the rest of the country — an economic boost that may eventually surpass the loss of business it caused. Reconstruction and related purchases and hiring may range from $140 billion to $240 billion and increase U.S. economic growth by 0.5 percentage point next year, assuming $50 billion in losses, according to Economic Outlook Group LLC, a Princeton, New Jersey-based forecasting firm.

Well, that’s good news, isn’t it?  Up to $240 billion in new economic activity.  Wow.  Guess hurricanes are good things.  A blessing.  Providing new jobs.  Injecting new money into the local economy.  Why, there hardly is a downside.  Except for this (see After Sandy damage, insurance adjusters may bring more bad news by Ben Berkowitz, Michelle Conlin and Jonathan Allen posted 11/23/2012 on Reuters).

After another day of pumping out their swampy, moldy houses, neighbors in Breezy Point in New York City huddled at the quaint generator-powered firehouse Wednesday night, stamping their feet to stay warm. Neighbors picked at food from tin cans and sipped soups from Styrofoam cups as they lamented the growing holes in a safety net they thought they had: homeowner’s insurance.

“They’re covering five shingles and a piece of gutter, and that’s it,” says Kathleen Valentine, a fire alarm dispatcher who spent the night of Superstorm Sandy working while her house filled with water and dead fish. Her insurance agent from Narragansett Bay Insurance Company said her policy would pay only for wind damage. She is still waiting for someone from the federal flood insurance program to show up…

The trouble is, many homeowners don’t read those policies closely enough to realize that most don’t cover flooding. They don’t always get both homeowner’s insurance, usually provided by a private company, and flood insurance provided through the U.S. government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

Only 14 percent of homeowners in the Northeast hold flood insurance policies, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Federal law requires flood insurance to mortgage any home in a designated high-risk floodplain. But once the initial policy, usually for a year term, expires, no law says you have to renew it, and many people don’t because banks don’t make them.

In New Jersey, only 231,000 of the homes in the 20 coastal counties had flood insurance, according to FEMA.

There’s a reason why private insurance companies don’t sell flood insurance to people living in high-risk floodplains.  The cost of the policies would be so high to cover the losses in the event of a flood (pretty much rebuilding all houses in the area) that no one would buy the insurance.  So why bother?  Which is why the federal government provides flood insurance.  So they can spread the cost of flood claims to people who don’t live in high-risk floodplains.  Something insurance companies can’t do.  Because they don’t have the power to tax or print money.  But even the policies the government sells are too expensive for 86% of the people living in high-risk floodplains.  So they don’t buy them.  And suffer the consequences when the flood comes.

So that blessing of Keynesian-like economic stimulus?  The money to pay for it comes from in part insurance companies who can’t invest that money elsewhere.  In part from the federal government, further increasing the federal deficit which is ultimately paid by the taxpayers.  But mostly from the people who lost everything and have to pay out of pocket to rebuild their lives.  This is the blessing of that economic activity.  The destruction of lives so other people can prosper.

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Superstorm Sandy Recovery Slower in Less Affluent Areas where People Feel Abandoned

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 4th, 2012

Week in Review

After George W. Bush used his special secret powers to steer Hurricane Katrina into New Orleans and then blew up the levees protecting the city because he hated poor minorities (that’s what some on the Left believe), the media attacked him for the federal response.  Nothing was done fast enough.  Or good enough.  And the reason was because George W. Bush hasted poor minorities.  But many have placed a lot of blame on the mayor and governor.  For not following New Orleans’ evacuation plan.  Especially the mayor for waiting so long to give the evacuation order.  Probably few will ever be satisfied with placing the blame for the aftermath of Katrina.  For they could have done a lot of things better.

Katrina is past history.  A tragedy.  But a learning opportunity.  After that experience all levels of government should be able to operate as a finely oiled machine to bring quick relief to anyone suffering a Katrina-like event.  And now we’ve had one.  Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy).  So how is the Sandy aftermath going?  Well, if you read some reports, you’d think you were reading about Katrina again (see ‘This is our Katrina’: Misery for 2.5 million STILL without power after six days as lawlessness and fear take over New York’s outer boroughs by Rachel Rickard Straus and Snejana Farberov posted 11/3/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Almost one week after superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast with its ferocious force, power was still out to some 2.5 million customers due to damages, down from 3.5 million on Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability claimed.

The state with the largest number of outages by far is still New Jersey with 32 percent of customers without power, it said it a report.

And as the lights begin to flicker on in Lower Manhattan, nine percent of customers across the state of New York still do not have power, followed by seven percent in Connecticut.

This comes as residents of the Rockaways in Queens continued to struggle without power, heat or food for a sixth day as their neighborhood slowly descended into chaos.

‘It’s chaos; it’s pandemonium out here,’ said Chris Damon, who had been waiting for 3.5 hours at the site and had circled the block five times. “It seems like nobody has any answers.”

Added Damon: ‘I feel like a victim of Hurricane Katrina. I never thought it could happen here in New York, but it’s happened.’

With little police presence on the storm-ravaged streets, many residents of the peninsula have been forced to take their protection into their own hands, arming themselves with guns, baseball bats and even bows and arrows to ward off thugs seeking to loot their homes…

City Councilman James Sanders said he fears that things are going to get even worse.

‘We have an explosive mix here,’ he said. ‘People will take matters into their own hands.’

Sanders has directed much of his anger and frustration at LIPA, calling on the City Council to investigate the utility for ignoring the Rockaways for so long.

‘LIPA has failed the people of the Rockaways,’ he said. ‘It’s a question of class… serving the richer areas of Long Island and ignoring the Rockaways…’

Stranded neighbors largely have been relying on volunteers delivering food, water and other basic necessities while the Red Cross and FEMA were still nowhere in sight…

In a Coney Island apartment block, where tenants huddle together in one room and human waste spills out of the toilet, tenant Jeffery Francis despairs that help is not getting to Brooklyn faster.

We are scavenging for food like animals,’ he told the New York Daily News. ‘We are in a crisis and no one will help us. Look at us. We are misery. Everyone cares about Manhattan. No one is looking out for us. Nothing…’

While power is likely to be returned to Manhattan’s East and West Villages, Financial District, Chelsea, Chinatown and the Lower East Side by the weekend, according to the power company Con Edison outages in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are not expected to be repaired for another week.

Across Staten Island residents are also increasingly frustrated they are being passed over while other parts of New York and New Jersey receive aid and attention…

For power companies, the scale of the destruction was unmatched – more widespread than any blizzard or ice storm and worse than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

‘It’s unprecedented: fallen trees, debris, the roads, water, snow. It’s a little bit of everything,’ said Brian Wolff, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that lobbies for utilities.

Initially, about 60 million people were without power in 8.2 million homes and businesses.

By Wednesday night, that number had fallen to roughly 44 million people in 6 million households and businesses and today around 3.6 million are without power.

Manhattan and Long Island getting power before the less affluent areas hit by the storm?  That sounds like what the Left claimed the Bush administration was doing in New Orleans.  Now either President Obama hates poor minorities, too.  Or neither he nor George W. Bush hate poor minorities.  More likely the Democrat-friendly media reported every New Orleans failing because they hated George W. Bush.  While they will make no such claims in the Sandy aftermath because they love President Obama.

It would probably be better to have a Republican in the White House during the Sandy recovery.  Because the media would be relentless attacking the administration for every misstep.  While a lesser federal effort under a Democrat administration will get a more positive treatment in the media.  So there would be more urgency under a Republican administration to help people than there would be under a Democrat administration.  Especially poor people and minorities.  Who the Left says Republicans hate.  Especially when this is happening a week before an election.

Had Sandy happened with George W. Bush in office running for reelection they would have excoriated him for hitting the campaign trail.  For not expending every last effort in the recovery process.  It would have been just like Katrina.  But President Obama can hit the campaign trail.  For he walked New Jersey with Governor Christie.  And that was enough.  Of course the people in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, New Jersey and in the other areas struggling to recover from Sandy probably want more.  Especially when they see the lights coming on in Manhattan when they have no power, food or heat.  And have to defend themselves from roving mobs of looters.

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