Ego no te absolvo
It seems Donald Powell was feeling talkative at lunch in Baton Rouge Wednesday:
Louisiana must make do with the $6.2 billion in block grants authorized by Congress on all of its housing relief, and if it spends the money wisely more could follow, Don Powell, the former FDIC chairman overseeing the Gulf Coast recovery, said Wednesday.
Does that sound just a smidge paternalistic to anybody but Polimom?
Looks like they had quite the Q&A session, actually, and a lot of very good questions were asked - some of which he answered (although he couldn't explain where that "lot of money" is being spent). He did address an important one, though, that has confounded many people: Why did the White House stomp on the Baker Bill?
According to Powell, it’s because they feel that if you live in a flood plain, you should have had flood insurance.
Fifth District Savings and Loan Association chairman Michael Nolan asked Powell: If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed in the levee design and construction to protect the city, why wouldn’t homeowners be made whole by the federal government?
“If a homeowner suffered damage because of a failure by a federal agency of government, why should they settle for less than 100 percent?” he said.
Powell answered that residents living in the flood plain should take responsibility for their own property.
“I have flood insurance for my home (in Amarillo, Texas) where it rains 17 inches a year,” said the wealthy former head of First National Bank of Amarillo. “Is that wasting my money? Yes maybe, but it’s responsible.”
But the moral-hazard issue here is not as clear-cut as it seems. New Orleans residents understood that their properties would flood sometimes, but not catastrophically; they thought, reasonably, that the levees designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in response to previous floods would protect their homes. Those levees, of course, gave way after Katrina, due in part to failures on the part of the Corps as well as on the part of state and local officials, who were responsible for maintenance.
The article goes on to explain how the federal government could work with the Baker Bill, to create a scenario in which the homeowners themselves take on much of the responsibility:
Baker has shown himself willing to modify his bill in response to reasonable criticism, and the administration could help him perfect his plan by asking him to change it to place more financial responsibility for rebuilding flood-wrecked properties in the hands of exiled Big Easy homeowners. Such a move would join reasonable federal supervision with the power of the ownership society that President Bush rightly values.
Washington can pave the way for reconstruction by working with New Orleans to build adequate levees, of course. It should also work with local authorities to set out clear and non-negotiable reconstruction standards. No house will be issued a permit for occupancy unless its main living quarters are elevated enough from the ground to withstand future floods. Properties must be built to wind- and flood-resistant standards, as has happened in vulnerable areas of Florida.
But evidently the feds aren't interested. They have absolved themselves.
Taking responsibility for the enormous damage in New Orleans is, I think, a two-way street. Yes, many people did not have adequate flood insurance. To balance that, the Army Corps of Engineers did not build adequate protection.
Polimom isn't ready to say "Te absolvo" for the sin of the failed levees.
Has the non-stop blame-gaming that we've seen since August 29 contributed to this sullen "not my problem" on the part of the feds? I dunno.
Was pushing for 100% compensation what ticked them off? I dunno.
Is there anything that will bring the two sides together in a shared way, so that New Orleanians can find their way out of the tunnel?
Sigh.... I dunno.