Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Disaster Relief Is A Disaster

Another here in Bloomberg View on how to fix federal disaster-relief spending in the wake of Hurricane Sandy:
The Hurricane Sandy aid discussion has been noticeably lacking in common sense. On Jan. 4, the House of Representatives approved a scaled-back $9.7 billion aid package and promised to debate the additional $51 billion offered by the Senate on Jan. 15. But the most obvious solution to disaster-relief spending remains unexplored: budgeting for it ahead of time.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in many ways right on Jan. 2 when he spoke out against the House’s inaction. The delay of relief -- making the Eastern Seaboard wait more than nine weeks after the storm for federal support -- was appalling. So was the paltry sum the House approved, which covers only National Flood Insurance Program claims and falls considerably short of the amounts other states have received after similar disasters.

Republicans are also right to protest the pork-barrel spending attached to the Sandy bill. The House’s delay on Sandy relief was as “disappointing and disgusting” as Christie said it was, but the decision to layer a relatively simple request with so much legislative pork was just as wrong.

One doesn’t have to be from New Jersey or hold rigid fiscal conservative views to see that the way the federal government funds disaster relief is a disaster unto itself. The U.S. can make sure that something like this never happens again. All it needs to do is treat natural disasters as predictable and do what every insurance company does: predict damage in advance and allocate sufficient money to cover the payments.

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