Moral Hazards and Natural Disasters

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Dennis Hastert  came  under fire for comments he made suggesting that it made no sense to rebuild New Orleans and that "it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." Today, the Washington Post reports:

NEW ORLEANS — By ones and twos, homeowners here are reinhabiting neighborhoods, even the most devastated ones, and many view their return as a triumph over adversity.

But experts involved in the rebuilding believe that the helter-skelter return of residents to this low-lying metropolis may represent another potential disaster.

After Katrina, teams of planners recommended that broad swaths of vulnerable neighborhoods be abandoned. Yet all areas of the city have at least some residents beginning to rebuild. With billions of dollars in federal relief for homeowners trickling in, more people are expected to follow.

Because those who lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina do not have to bear the full cost of rebuilding, there isn't a disincentive to moving back to the same neighborhoods that were hardest hit. It may seem compassionate to throw federal money at Katrina victims to help them rebuild, but it's doing New Orleans residents no service to allow them to use the money to repopulate areas that would be at  great risk if another major hurricane struck.    

     

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Re: The O-Bam

While I share much of the skepticism over the hype surrounding Obama, at the same time I do think there’s something more to his star power than many faded politicians of the past. I remember watching his 2004 convention speech and thinking that he presented liberalism in the best possible light, with a kind of sunny optimism that was similar to the way Reagan was able to present conservatism. Many liberal politicians come across as angry and anti-American, they frame issues in divisive ways: black vs. white, rich vs. poor, etc. But Obama’s rhetoric is a lot different. He celebrates America as the land of oppourtunity and equality, but modestly suggests that the nation can do a better job of making sure everybody gets a fair shake. It’s easy to see how that can appeal to voters, especially Democrats.

RE: State of the Union Preview

One of the interesting parts of Bush’s WSJ column is that he refines the infamous statement he made in 2003 that, “when somebody hurts, government has got to move,” which provoked much scorn among conservatives. Today, the construction changed to:

I believe government plays an important role in helping those who can’t help themselves. Yet we must always remember that when people are hurting, they need a caring person, not a government bureaucracy.

Jeb Bush and ’08

In a NY Times article on Jeb Bush's future plans, Grover Norquist floats the idea that the outgoing Florida governor could run in 2008 if the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton:

“He could step in later than anybody else,” Mr. Norquist said. “You can run for president with the last name of Bush, even though there is and will be Bush fatigue, in a year that you’re likely to be running against someone whose last name is Clinton.”

I think Norquist is mistaken. The problem for Jeb is not  merely that his brother  is president,  but that his brother is a tremendously unpopular president. And, according to a Gallup poll  from last month, Americans view Bill Clinton  as a better president than  both Presidents Bush.

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Rudy’s Secret Plan

In an early stumble for the Giuliani campaign, the NY Daily News has obtained Rudy’s detailed battle plan for his presidential run, outlining his fundraising strategy to raise $100 million this year “as well as his aides’ worries that personal and political baggage could scuttle his run.”

The piece says:

The document was obtained by the Daily News from a source sympathetic to one of Giuliani’s rivals for the White House. The source said it was left behind in one of the cities Giuliani visited as he campaigned for dozens of Republican candidates in the weeks leading up to the November 2006 elections.

Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel suggested there were political dirty tricks behind the loss of the documents and called the timing suspicious.

“I wonder why such suspicious activity is occurring and can only guess it is because of Rudy’s poll numbers in New Hampshire and Iowa,” Mindel said.