Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Kudos to Prez Obama For Fast Efficient Govt Responses

Barack Obama, Janet Napolitano

From Denny:  As a resident of  Louisiana, viewing the widespread and horrific devastation to New Jersey and New York From Hurricane Sandy on endless streaming news is a stark reminder of what we face each hurricane season, six months out of the year.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone experiencing difficulty and loss from the appropriately named "Frankenstorm."  It's the rebuilding that can prove testing to the human spirit.

On the Martin Bashir show (we like him at our house as he spares no unclear opinion carefully considered), he ran clips of Prez Obama with New Jersey Gov. Christie.  Kudos go out to Prez Obama setting aside the campaign and truly governing.  A cheer went up at our house when Obama announced he had "instituted the 15 Minute Rule for returning phone calls" from the politicians and officials in the devastated states.

Obama is hands on, demanding all agencies to abandon the usually frustrating red tape and give immediate help.  Obama even has the military rounding up huge cargo planes to transport supplies and power trucks from the West Coast to get to New Jersey in a timely fashion.  Normally, it would take about three days just to drive from California to the affected areas.  See how much you can learn when you watch the afternoon news cycle? :)

Now THIS is government at its best!  What took so long?  America has to suffer a terrible disaster - a second time - before politicians decide to act human and do the right thing for the greater good?  Where is this attitude in the day to day of our government and politics?  What is their excuse for not doing so?

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I remember only too well how a desperate Louisiana Gov. Blanco tried to get even one call back for a full three days from President Bush after the storm hit during the 29 Aug 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster.  I also remember how the then FEMA director "Brownie" took orders from Bush and Rove, denying the Governor's buses to come in and rescue the trapped citizens in New Orleans.  Why did the military deny the easy rescue in local school buses?  The red tape Bush White House said the buses were not air-conditioned.  Yes, sad but true.  It's the red tape and political season game of refusing to help an opposition political party governor in desperate times.

To see Obama refuse to act that petty certainly lifts up the hearts of millions on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans who were so traumatized first by a 500-mile wide storm and then again by their own federal government.  Hurricane Sandy has trumped Katrina in her size - a 900-mile wide storm - and perhaps her scope of damage, though that assessment has yet to be fully fleshed out.

The damage from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina storm ran about $47 billion.  So far, the Hurricane Sandy tally is looking like about at least $50 billion and counting which includes, fires, floods, wind and rain damages.  Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.  The Frankenstorm affected 10 states, sledgehammering the most heavily populated part of America.

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Those properties that were insured?  The losses are estimated at anywhere from $7 to $15 billion.  Think also all those properties not insured as well as publicly owned roads and bridges.  Then you start adding up other economic losses like business interruption resulting from property damages and power loss bringing the local economy to a standstill.  Even the New York Stock Exchange closed for two days, reopening on generator power.

Trivia:  Did you know that the 12 states in the path of Hurricane Sandy contribute about 23 percent of the country's gross national product?  The GDP annually is $15 trillion, so that means these states create about $3.45 trillion.  It will be interesting how this shakes out over the next few months economically, especially since the storm caused a loss of 14,000 cancelled flights.  Expect the jobless claims to skyrocket and the retail sales to plummet for the Halloween holiday season.  Of course, the rebuilding process may pick up the economy once those funds start diving into the economy.

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Insurance claims?  The global insurance companies have accumulated about $500 billion through premiums collected in the past few years.  The insurance guys who insure the insurance companies are primarily based in Europe, so hopefully they are not adversely affected by the European economy.  If they are, all bets are off as to what will happen for recovery from this storm.

The people in New Jersey and New York can count on the insurance companies finding ways to screw them over like they did us on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill.  There are too many documented stories of insurance companies refusing to pay out according to the policies or do it in a timely fashion.  The insurance companies are notorious for taking four years to pay out $1,000 and offering $400 to repair a $20,000 roof.  They actually expect - and often harass - people into signing off on these terms.

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You get the idea.  Let's hope the President is watching out for the public, guarding them against the stingy insurance companies.  It will take years to rebuild what Hurricane Sandy destroyed in minutes.  The President - and the local governors - need to also consider gathering an army of free psychologists available to the public as it sets in just how hard and expensive this rebuilding process is truly going to be.

This is a tremendously stressful time for everyone: the public and responders.  President Obama needs to stay hands on for the full process over the coming months and years.  If the past couple of days is any indication of the New Hands On Obama then he deserves a second term.  Romney would have dismantled FEMA much like President Bush did, defunding it and breaking it up to become ineffective.  Where would those storm ravaged regions be now?  It would take decades for them to recover Romney's way.

With our climate changing as a result of the melting of the north and south poles - and the Earth's axis on a new tilt, pushed to that new rotation by massive earthquakes, we can expect more of these monster storms.  It's more important now than ever to do two things:

1) develop efficient fast-responding federal government where all the states contribute to share risk because sooner or later their turn is coming they will be in need, and

2) get serious about moving heavy population centers away from the coasts and up to higher ground.  This process can take a generation or more so we might as well get started.

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