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How Would $36B Impact Your State's Economy?

chicago dyke's picture

$36 Billion.

I guess I don't understand how federal aid works anymore. It's true, I've been out of the loop for a few years, having other concerns beyond national politics. But my father is dead now, and I can get back to paying attention to what the thieves we call leadership are up to. I'm horrified. It's so much worse than even I had predicted it would be.

Yes, I'm angry. A trusted "friendly" commenter from another blog I regularly read got angry with my "ignorance." Because I was upset to see that $36B was just dropped on one state, without any comparison, any sort of "is this the right use of taxpayer money" etc.

I am not saying I think that it is not important, or a worthy project, or that the people who live there, this process of 'repairing' Sandy related damage. Everyone who lives in the Tri-State area deserves good roads, bridges, levies, etc. That's the definition of "civilization." All of us pay taxes, therefore all of us deserve the benefits those taxes buy.

But seriously, $36B? That is a fantastic and amazing number to someone like me, who has spent the last 7 years living in Flyoverland, where a paltry few billion given to GM (and mostly to the benefit of their shareholders and executive class, so that unions could magnanimously agree to slashing benefits and thus creating a new class of union worker who makes $14/hr, tops) causes endless conservative backlash and democratic fawning and apology.

This was one storm. From what I can tell, the markets are online, the roads are open, no one is swimming through filth for food, etc. NOLA suffered for years afterwards, with poor people living in mold covered trailers and displacement and incarceration for "looting" and state sanctioned murder and...

Yeah, I'm pissed off. Thirty fucking Six Billion. Half of that would transform the economy of the state of Michigan overnight. Almost instantly. But Butterball "I'm a liberal conservative, look at me cry on CNN" Christie says that 675K properties in NJ went without power, for a whole week even! and now the rest of us have to cough up DoD sized "emergency relief" right fucking now or Wall St grandma won't be able to keep her nice Princeton home neat and clean.

Whatever. Also: pitchforks, torches.

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goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

...climbing the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend new New Jersey's honor.

First, we in nj have been footing the bill for the rest of the country for years now. For ever dollar of taxes we send to DC we get $.61. That's right, we lose 40 cents of every dollar. While I would LOVE to send it to Michigan, it usually gets sucked down by Mississippi and Alabama who hate us for our freedoms.

Second, this is the densest state in the nation. There are a lot of buildings, a lot of people. And real estate here is not cheap. I live in the NYC metropolitan area in central Jersey where the average house price is about $450K and the median salary is $108k per year. And at that salary, you're barely middle class. I was making about $100k when I got laid off and I like in a modest townhouse and drive a second hand car. It's just fricking expensive here.

Third, a lot of the businesses wiped out at the Jersey shore are seasonal. There's not a whole lot going on there in the winter. They make their money from May to September. The shore is great for families. That's just a fact. You rent a house there for a week or two, invite everyone you know and enjoy the sun and sea. So, tourism is big in this state. It has to be somewhat ready before next summer.

Four, the devastation was pretty bad in Newark, jersey city and Hoboken. Those are not high rent districts. Well, except for Hoboken, which is becoming gentrified and is the hot place to live if you can't afford manhattan. In other words, these cities were already hit hard by decades of neglect followed by an economic downturn. I think I know your heart CD and I don't think you wish further hardship on these people. Not everyone lives in Princeton.

Five, the devastation was wide spread. This much I know for sure because I see it every fricking day. There are still parts of my township that were without power up until last week. LAST WEEK! The number of trees that are down is unbelievable. I mean, you really have to be here to see it. Some people walked out of their houses the day after and were electrocuted on their front porches. I did a video of a neighborhood near mine. Check it out. There were huge trees down on almost every property, streets blocked off from fallen power lines and one house that was literally surrounded by fallen power lines. I don't know how peopl in that house were able to leave it safely. I was out of power for 5 days which wasn't so bad but without power, you can't turn on your furnace even if it's gas. Some people had to go almost four weeks without heat in the middle of November.

Princeton *was* extremely hard hit. There were main streets in downtown Princeton that were block off because of dangerous fallen and falling trees. Up until last week, I was still driving thru parts of it that had no working traffic signals. This I know for sure: there will be many more deaths from this storm on the months to come. There are still too many damaged trees close to the road. Yours truly is very afraid of driving around my area and Princeton because someone's car is bound to get hammered by one of them at any point in time.

Finally, this state had an unemployment rate of 10.2% BEFORE Sandy. Ifs higher now because so many businesses were damaged or forced to close during the power failure or lost money because counties like mine declared a state of emergency and told everyone to stay indoors until the dangerous power lines and fallen trees and street lamps and overhead power supports could be secured. To give you an idea of how long that took, it was November 16 before the kids could go trick or treating safely. Sandy has been awful for a lot of people but there is a silver lining. That is with $36 B (and to me, that sounds cheap but that's because I know what things cost here) we can put a lot of people back to work doing construction, clean up, maybe forward planning, insurance adjusting, relocations, etc. There will be enough money to maybe jump start this economy, which believe it or not, has been harder hit during the little Depression than most people know.

So, I hope I've changed your mind, CD. We really need the money. It will be well spent. And it will do a lot of working class and middle class people a lot of good. Those people have been funding the rest of America for years. It's time for America to give back in our state's hour of need.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

There was a NOVA special the other day on the damage the storm did. I don't think goldberry is exaggerating one bit.

Oh, and $36 billion isn't a Pentagon-sized budget. It's a NASA-sized budget (well, actually maybe twice what NASA gets). The Pentagon spent $100 billion or so the last three years just blowing up Afghanistan. I try not to live in an unnecessarily dichotomous world, but if someone made me choose between paying to blow up Afghanistan or rebuild Princeton, I'd say go (looking up in Wikipedia...) Tigers! Plus, I'd save $64 billion or so.

Our economy, incidentally, is about $14,000 billion last year. I think we can spare a few quarters to get the slot machines running in Atlantic City.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

I'm of the old school that says you ask right up to the edge of ludicrousness and then a little more. So yeah, Christie's just doing his job. It is a lot of money, and it will be interesting to see how much he gets. The area affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina has received about $6.1 billion in individual assistance. The City of New Orleans has received $6.4 billion in public assistance. $36 billion is a lot of money. I should note, goldberry, that tree and debris removal is cheap. No matter how much of it there is, it shouldn't cost more than a few millions, unless there's significant monopoly pricing or corruption. Being without power is a really bad experience, especially if you're not used to it. However, recovery funds are not available to compensate for bad experiences. They should pay only for goods/services that advance recovery.

The federal government doesn't do much in the way of long term recovery -- it provides funding, but the state and local governments design and run the programs. The Katrina recovery was quite extraordinarily badly done. I don't know how/what New Jersey is planning. A problem is that no state or local government keeps staff sufficient to deal with a major disaster. As a result, you have a disaster consultant class that goes from one disaster to the next. This is a real problem, since the locals take FEMA advice on whom to hire. Now you understand that FEMA isn't supposed to push specific buddies, but hey, the informal conversations cover a lot. One of the reasons Katrina was done so badly was that the outside consultants flowing into the area were Republican-connected (remember, Bush turned FEMA into a patronage dumping ground, and they all paid off their friends in the consultant ranks). Rather than squelching proposals to use the money for political gain, they modeled and encouraged it. Not to say that Democrats are great, but FEMA was fairly competent under Clinton.

So my weigh-in on this is as follows: $36 billion is much more proportionately than other disaster areas have received. Christie probably won't get it. However, our response should be "We all have the slow-motion disaster of crumbling infrastructure, inadequate housing, lack of jobs. What you can find for the headline creating storms you must also find for progress into a decent future for the whole country." And also, for New Jersey residents -- most programs require public hearings on the state's proposals to use the money. Attend those and make sure the money doesn't benefit the few or simply displace normal spending. Local officials always want to fix their own budgets with federal money. This should not happen beyond some short-term necessity to deal with the loss of tax dollars resulting from the disaster. I should also say I'm rather hostile to the idea of rebuilding on beaches in harm's way. Local officials love it because the properties are pricey and bring in tax money, and then federal money rebuilds after disasters. Stop that if you can.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

...you have no idea how dense this state is and I don't mean mentally. I mean, there are a lot of people here, a lot of businesses. I've been to New Orleans and let's just be honest here, Louisiana can't compete in terms of the number of people, buildings and businesses affected. In New Orleans, everything is less expensive. Around here, we pay some of the highest prices in the nation for everything. If Christie says $36 billion, he's probably underestimating. Sandy came ashore just north of Atlantic City and swept up most of NJ. There are roughly 9 million people here. Compare that to 4.5 million in the entire state of Louisiana. In terms of density, we have 1189 people/sq mile compared to about 100 people per square mile in Louisiana. So, take whatever New Orleans got in Katrina funds and multiply it by 10. If New Orleans got $6 billion, we should probably get $60 billion. Like I said, Christie is lowballing.
The best reason for asking for and getting the $36 billion is that this state needed stimulus BEFORE the hurricane. Like I said, you have no idea how bad the economy is around here unless you live here and everyone you know has been laid off and relocated.
The shore is a popular tourist destination and a significant chunk of the economy of New Jersey. Yeah, I agree that too many people build too many mcmansions near the beach and I wouldn't mind if there was some rezoning. But if you condemn the property and force the owners to relocate or take a loss, you're still going to have to compensate a lot of people.
I'm just saying that the density of the destruction and the location of the worst hit places just is ginormous in scale compared to Louisiana. This is not the 9th ward. This is the 9th ward times 10.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

It's a matter of scale.
As to whether or not it's the 9th ward. There are many places in NJ that are not Princeton. Newark is a very distressed city as is Jersey City. There are parts of Newark that make the 9th Ward look upscale. And those were the sections that were hard hit.
The reason the number is so high has nothing to do with gold plated grannies in Princeton. It has to do with population density.
Ok, I feel like I am repeating myself and some people here are obviously not getting the full picture. Just come to NJ and spend one week in my house and it will all make sense. I'm not even in the worst hit area but you will get an idea of just how many people we are talking about. One week here will make any other part of the country feel spacious in comparison.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

All right then, let me give it a try. There are twice as many people in New Jersey. They are more densely populated by far, which means that reconstruction will be far more complicated and, thus, costly. In a place like NJ, which has been settled in an urban or suburban fashion for centuries, different utilities and transportation assets are layered on top of each other. That means that vital stuff is built on top of other vital stuff, and in some rather large locations, it's all broken. That means more expense. In urban environments, people are also more dependent on services provided either by the government or by private interests. When those don't exist, that's more of a problem, and thus more expense.

I don't find Christie's request unreasonable, particularly since I don't think New Orleans got the money it should have, either.

As for the argument about the houses near the coast - yes, that probably shouldn't be done so much. Just try to stop it, though. There are economic reasons things get built where they do. Many times, the best thing to do is to try to engineer and plan things so that when disaster hits, things aren't so bad. I have to laugh when people talk about others' irresponsibility building a particular thing in a particular place sometimes. I've seen blizzards in Texas and tornadoes in Washington. No place is safe. Absolutely nowhere. You just learn what might happen, and try to take precautions.

Submitted by lambert on

We really have three disasters to compare here:

1. Hurricane Sandy

2. Hurricane Katrina

3. Hurricane Neo-Liberal

A colleague of mine once had in his sig: "Natural disasters: What's natural about them?" The nature and scale and scope of each disaster was conditioned by choices made in the political economy; for example, NOLA residents speak of "The Plan" to destroy black neighborhoods/culture by opening the floodgates (too lazy to find the link); and the ongoing disaster of the bayous certainly has a lot to do with the damage done.

Michigan got hit by Hurricane Neo-liberal, that over the last generation hollowed out Americans industrial base and destroyed the unions. And then when they were hanging onto the cliff with their fingers, the banksters stamped on them with the financial crash of 2008. And Obama bailed them out just enough to win enough swing voters in enough swing states like MI and OH to win in 2012.

And if we look at the social engineering that was done to NOLA after Katrina, we might think twice about envying NJ their billions -- they will surely come with a price, even if Obama would like his BFF Christie on the ticket as VP in 2016. Kidding! I think.

All that said, from up here in the great state of Maine, it surely lppks like a double standard is in action: NJ is getting the treatment that used to the baseline -- "civilization," if you will -- and NOLA got thrown under the bus, and then had the bus driven over them, as did Michigan.

So I think RiverDaughter is absolutely right to point to the real damage done to her area (in fact, some of the best coverage of Sandy came from her blog) and I think CD is right to point to the double standard.

Oh, crabs in a bucket:

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, is a phrase popular among Filipinos, and was first coined by writer Ninotchka Rosca.[1] It describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you."

The joke about the Russian peasant granted one wish by a genie is similar. The wish? "I wish my neighbor's cow would die."

In short, everybody should get the help NJ is getting. They don't and won't, which creates anger, as unfairness does.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Like I said, the population density of NJ is 10 times that of Louisiana. NOLA is just Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and Elizabeth. Then there's everything else.

It only seems like a lot of money in comparison to NOLA after Katrina but as I've said, it should be a lot higher. And there's no guarantee that we're even going to get that. I admit that we were lucky in the suburbs. We've just had damaged roofs, down power lines and a LOT of broken trees. You really need to see it to take it all in. It's really quite incredible. My little video doesn't do it justice. And I only filmed about three streets from my car. We survived it fine. But if I can see all of the work that needs to be done around here and extrapolate that to the hardest hit communities, all I can think is that it's going to be wildly expensive.

Maybe this will teach Christie a lesson. He should ask for as much "stimulus" as he can get and then try to pull the state out of this mess with less than half of it.

So, I reject this argument that there is some kind of double standard going on here. If you were in Newark the night Sandy hit and you were in the wrong neighborhood and your house was flooding and your kids were screaming, there's a pretty good chance that the fire department that was called to help you did nothing but watch and you had to rely on the kindness of neighbors. It was disgusting.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not quarreling with the amounts or the devastation.

I'm quarreling with the process. And that goes double, a hundred times for Hurricane Neo-Liberal.

It's exactly the same in New York -- Manhattan, right away! Far Rockaways, Staten Island, the housing projects, not so much.

That's not to say that Manhattan didn't need and deserve the relief that it got; it did. But the process served them well, and the same process served others badly.

In terms of process, Manhattan is to the Far Rockaways as NJ is to NOLA. Far, far better served. And again that goes double, a hundred times for Hurricane Neo-Liberal.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Nothing.
As Kanye West once said, "George Bush doesn't like black people".

I don't think we're getting any special treatment and I don't think it has anything to do with neo-liberalism. Christie really is a bully who hates working people, especially unions. Corey Booker really is a very good mayor. And Barack Obama got blessed by a disaster right before the election. There's no plot here. All we have is a Republican governor who is savvy enough to know when it's appropriate to kiss asses and a state that's home to a lot of Wall Street workers and Jersey Shore part time landlords.

Keep it simple. It's just a matter of scale and scope. We are a state with a lot of people per square mile. When disaster strikes, it hits a lot more of us. Since we are not the south and we are diverse and more liberal, our state just gets its shit together better than the old south.

You might find that unfair to Katrina victims, and I will be the first to admit that they were treated exceedingly badly. You can probably go look up my DailyKos diaries on that. But this is not New Orleans and it is not 2005. We can't be held to the same standard as NOLA because we are not NOLA. We are a different state with a different population density with a different state organization. Everything is different. Neo liberalism has nothing to do with this. Nothing. I can't see a connection at all and I would advise you not to look for one. All politics are local here. We've got different problems than NOLA and it probably doesn't help that the governor is a Republican who could seize this moment and reform so much that's wrong in the state but probably won't for no other reason than ideology.

We shall see what happens but I'm not going to be looking for phantom neo-liberals when there aren't any.

Submitted by lambert on

... requiring relief?

Why not?

Adding, I'm not talking about relief amount. I'm talking about process. The post conflates them, which is one of its problems, along with the amounts.

Adding further, the lack of a concept of "the public good" by elites is the real issue. Down to neo-liberalism again.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

It is a fricking disaster. A completely unnecessary, artificially created, thoughtless, destructive disaster.
I have no idea what that has to do with Hurricane Sandy, which was a natural disaster.

As for who was served by relief organizations, there were parts of lower Manhattan that were completely ignored. Bloomberg turned the lights on on Wall Street and called it a day. There were seniors stuck in their apartments for days without power or water. It was a disgrace to the city.

The Far Rockaways and some of the other places around the city that were hit were not projects. They were nice upper middle class and middle class communities. Staten Island, on the other hand is middle and working class and it was virtually ignored.

There is no logic to the way this storm's aftermath was handled. In general, I think New Jersey has handled it as well as it could and there are very wealthy communities that are suffering as well as very poor people. Some of those wealthy communities are in the straits they're in primarily BECAUSE of our crazy tax situation. It doesn't matter how many letters to the township and the local newspaper you write. If you live in a town run by Libertarian Republicans, you're probably screwed by the fact that you've contracted out just about every municipal service and those low overhead costs are resulting in downed trees and powerlines getting in the way of daily functioning, like getting to work or to the store or to the hospital.

It is not like NOLA where a underserved population had no place to go and was used by the Bush administration to overturn rules against martial law and mass displacement. People at the shore for the most part evacuated as they were told. They saw Sandy coming right at them and they got out of the way. But their houses and businesses didn't. And going to the shore is a very working class/middle class thing to do in the summer. Shore tourism is a huge part of this state. In fact, it might just be the only industry we have left here. There is nothing Neo-liberal about what happened there or cleaning it up.

You're right about one thing, conflating the two is not working. No doubt there is a lot of politicking going on about the massive cleanup that has to happen here. But the one thing in NJ's favor is that this job can't be outsourced.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

What governs federal disaster aid is the dollar amount of damage, not the number of people affected. If the finished basement of a million dollar house is flooded, that will generate more federal disaster dollars than the complete destruction of a a 20-unit trailer park of aged single-wides. The loss by poor people of everything they have is not regarded as as much of a tragedy as the economic damage to the relatively affluent. Remember Barbara Bush on Katrina refugees housed in the Astrodome: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." That's actually federal policy. The difference in property values between New Jersey and the Gulf States affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina is what triggers greater aid to New Jersey. That's one of the ways neoliberalism is involved.

Disasters are terrible -- people don't understand until they're involved in one. And I suppose it's rather churlish to someone experiencing a disaster for the first time to say "let's work on federal action to address the ways in which people's lives are damaged through no fault of their own", when the losses are still fresh. But when do we address these issues? Hell, Michael Moore made "Roger & Me" 23 years ago, and the destruction of good manufacturing jobs in Michigan just keeps rolling along. We should work on those things, not on "There's no comparison. My disaster is the worst evah."

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

There aren't a lot of trailer parks in NJ.
But there are a lot of basements of very expensive houses because just about all of the houses in NJ are expensive and there are a lot of them.
Neoliberalism has nothing to do with the price of houses in NJ. NJ is situated between NYC and Philadelphia and has a very busy harbor. There's a lot of demand here for housing so the prices go up.
I'll be the first person to say let's focus on infrastructure with that $36 billion. I'm sure I'm not the only person in the state to feel that way.
But again, this neoliberalism thing has no relation to what is happening here. None whatsoever. There's no tie in that I can see and I'm pretty good at spotting a trend.

Submitted by lambert on

Though the process where humans end up along coastlines vulnerablle to storms is no more "natural" than the de-industrialization of the American heartland. (And no, I'm not thinking of vacation homes on the shore; I'm thinking of the city of Bangkok, 5 feet above sea level, or Manhattan, for that matter).

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I wrote that people build where they do for economic reasons. I don't know if that qualifies as "natural" or not. People who live in the more vulnerable places tend to be those who can't afford better, often times. Though in the case of shoreline property, sometimes it's the people who can afford to be somewhere else when disaster strikes are the ones who live there. But that was the story in New Orleans, and it's the story lots of places. And then I wrote that no place is safe.

Let's ask ourselves a question, am I crazy or irresponsible to live in what might be the path of the next eruption from one of our local voclanoes, not to mention about 300,000 other people? That thing might go off next year or next century, who knows? There are a couple of places in Oregon I've visited where they have observation points built, where you can look in the direction of just about any compass point and see an active volcano off in the distance. Oh, and we might have Fukushima like tidal wave here if the Juan De Fuca fault lets go. Should we refuse to let anyone live on the coast for the next coiuple of centuries? Nearly every place has some form of potential natural disaster looming over it. People still want to stay there and make a living in the meantime. Where do you draw the line? A decade, a century, a thousand people or a million?

Storms like Sandy come along every few decades or so. People are going to want to live along the shore again.

In a way, this is a natural process, now that I think about it. Like every other organism on the planet, we settle where we think we can survive and maybe reproduce. Some of us just guess wrong, just like the dinosaurs probably thought that the Yucatan was the perfect place to be back in the day. I'm all for trying to avoid error, but guessing wrong could have as much to do with luck as anything scientific. Not being able to make a living because you're living where there's no work isn't a good survival strategy, either. People go where there's work, or some other way to make a living. I'm not preaching fatalism, but at the same time just saying that people are stupid to live here or there when they could be hit with a disaster doesn't strike me as a terribly interesting or useful observation. A lot of Dutch folks live below sea level, just like the folks in NOLA did. The Dutch just make sure that the sea stays where it's supposed to be, or that they have a way to deal with it when it doesn't. Maybe we should try that, instead of blaming people for living where they can make a living.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

The issue here is whether federal dollars should go to rebuild private houses and businesses in harm's way. Prior to the Federal Flood Insurance Program created in 1968, you only built on the beach what you could afford to lose. Now the federal government subsidizes flood insurance. I'd prefer that federal support of universal affordable housing should take precedence over support of the expense of high amenity housing.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

OK, I see your point now. I agree to this extent - people who can easily replace their losses shouldn't be helped ahead of people who can't. Sadly, that's not always the case.

Submitted by SophieCT on

Not to sound like Condoleeza, but no one could have predicted a storm like this in the NY/NJ/CT area. We don't (or didn't used to) get hurricanes (much less mega-storms) like this up in this area. Those houses on the Jersey Shore have been there for years and years and while there has been storm related damage in the past, it has been several orders of magnitude smaller and manageable by individuals.

Some of this "excessive" money will be used to fortify the infrastructure since, as Gov. Cuomo pointed out, we've been getting once-in-a-lifetime storms every year.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

If you can't get private property insurance at a price you are willing to pay for a location, I'd rather not provide federal subsidy for the insurance or rebuilding costs if the property is damaged. I do not find it amusing that the government does all kinds of means testing before putting people on the subsidy list for inadequate medical insurance, but is quite open with subsidized property insurance.

Are you using "excessive" to refer to the mitigation portion of the request? That's generally part of any disaster funding, and can be very effective. The effort in recovery should be to make the community better, not just to rebuild inadequacies.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Property insurance in an area with known widespread hazards is dreadfully expensive if those hazards are covered, and the insurance companies do their best to ensure they don't have to pay out if those hazards do occur. If your criteria applied, few people could live in the Northwest, thanks to the outrageous cost of earthquake insurance. You can probably say the same about California, but I don't know what the regs allow down there. Similar situations almost certainly exist now everywhere along the Gulf Coast for flood insurance, and will along the Atlantic Coast if they didn't before.

Private insurance has become a racket, which is backed up by the same rackets that caused the 2008 crash. Until it's clear that everyone is in the same risk pool (or pools, assuming there's real competition), then people won't be able to live lots of places they do now, by this criterion. When my earthquake hazard and Louisiana's flood hazard are part of the same pool (along with Texas' tornado hazard, etc.), then we can talk reasonably about things like this, I think.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

"people won't be able to live lots of places they do now". I'm basically saying that I don't agree that government subsidy of high-risk property should be a social and economic priority. And this isn't just insurance. I feel the same way about certain kinds of infrastructure. Or housing support for persons who need publicly provided services but want to live miles from such services.

The social and economic viability of areas looks as though it's going to change, probably through global warming, but population and other pressures such as the declining availability of cheap gas may play a role. The way we think now is that government's role is to continue the current property relations, as the government did with bank bailouts that kept the banksters rich, auto bailouts that screwed the workers, and natural disaster recovery that focuses on restoring property assets just as they were before the storm. I don't think that policy of continuing current property relationships will be viable much longer, and the disasters will keep getting worse. But I think the effort to continue the policy will go on as long as the government routinely socializes property costs for the profit of private individuals. I think this will lead to a whole lot of suffering that we could mitigate if we plan to prioritize people over property.

Submitted by SophieCT on

My point was that prior to Sandy, the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area was not in harms way and it was not considered risky to have a beachfront home at the Jersey Shore.

I used "excessive" in quotes as a protest to the original post. I suppose I could have been more precise by saying "so-called excessive."

Submitted by lambert on

Fat jokes are OK? Did I not get the memo on that?

Submitted by hipparchia on

yes, federal aid to the states is fucked up, and has been for years. and the auto "bailout" is a disaster in its own particular way too.

i like the framing "slow motion disaster" - that sure describes michigan, at least looking at it from my spot here in hurricane alley.

that said, katrina is estimated to have cost $108 billion, so the estimated $65 billion or so for sandy probably isn't out of line. also, a few other disasters, for comparison.

christie is asking for roughly $29 billion or so in recovery aid, of which fema typically grants maybe 75%, so new jersey can probably expect to get about $20 billion or so of that. on top of it, he's also asking for another $7 billion or so in order to be better prepared for future disasters, of which it's very possible he'll get ZERO.

also, compare that to the estimated $2.2 trillion needed to fix our existing infrastructure for the whole country and $40 billion for repairing part of new jersey's infrastructure looks almost paltry.

count me among those who think he's probably asking for way more than he actually expects to get.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

NOVA: Inside Megastorm

if you have not seen this it is worth watching. Hurricane Sandy was an incredible combination of a Hurricane, Nor'easter, shift in the jet stream, full moon, high tide, and everything that could contribute to a meteorological catastrophe.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

I'll second that. I just happened to catch it, and even though I watched a lot of the weather/news etc while it was happening, and followed RD's disaster blogging, I was just blown away by the devastation and how widespread it all was. I just could not wrap my mind around it.

I'm not sure how productive the comparisons between Katrina and Sandy really are (as Lambert says, crabs in a bucket). Should Christie have asked for less recovery money because NOLA got screwed? That wouldn't help either NOLA or NJ. It's not as if, had Christie asked for half that, the rest would go to LA. The baseline question is, is population X, affected by event Y, being well-served, adequately served, or badly served by the governmental response? New Orleans clearly falls into the badly category. For NJ we won't know until Christie actually gets the money and we see where it goes. I am not holding my breath, but maybe NJ will be an opportunity to nudge toward adequately-served.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

That's the show I was referring to in an earlier comment here. Quite an eye-opener. I hadn't realized the damage was quite so bad along the shore. As someone who grew up in the Lehigh Valley in PA, though, I can tell you that a lot of folks in that area experienced damage and electrical outages, too. They're pretty far inland, too.

That was one big honkin' storm.

Thanks for finding the link.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

thank you everyone for chirping in. seriously, i am grateful. give me a second or two, and let me get back to this topic. it's worth more debate. i am often wrong. i have no problem admitting that. i want your feedback. even if you're an idiot.

yes, i missed this place. it's tough when your life has to be about taking care of old, sick, dying people for no compensation and hell on earth as a reward.

this is much more fun.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

state of MI for fiscal year 2013 is ~48B.

that's everything. schools, roads, medicare, cops, orphans...

so forgive my knee jerk reaction to reports that 36B is being spent on ~30,000 people and businesses. and everyone seems to be perfectly OK with that, because, um, it's more expensive on the coasts to build roads, or something.

T
he total Executive Budget Recommendation for fiscal year 2013, including all state and federal
revenue sources, is $48.2 billion. This includes $47.6 billion in ongoing base spending, with
another $600 million in one-time funding. Over 75 percent of the total budget is devoted to
health, human services and education.
The Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference held in January projected that revenues will be $9
billion in the general fund and $11.1 billion in the School Aid Fund for fiscal year 2013, reflecting
a combined total of $20.1 billion. This budget cycle starts with a base increase of $622.8 million
over previously adopted revenue estimates.

even 10B more from the Federal government could transform the state of MI's economy. i'm not sorry for pointing this out, no matter how desperate and difficult things are for Sandy victims. i was honestly shocked at that number, and the tiny number of people to whom that $36B is directed to, no matter how important they may be or how "expensive" it is to fix their roads and lights, etc.

Submitted by lambert on

Since being polite hasn't done the trick, let me be direct. This is an analytically sloppy and strategically vacuous post that fully deserves the beating it got. And I'm not happy with the comments either.

Here's the key graf. I know there is nuance earlier in the post, but this cri de couer, the peroration, sums up what went before because that's what perorations do:

Yeah, I'm pissed off. Thirty fucking Six Billion. Half of that would transform the economy of the state of Michigan overnight. Almost instantly. But Butterball "I'm a liberal conservative, look at me cry on CNN" Christie says that 675K properties in NJ went without power, for a whole week even! and now the rest of us have to cough up DoD sized "emergency relief" right fucking now or Wall St grandma won't be able to keep her nice Princeton home neat and clean.

Here are some of the many, many problems with this framing (putting aside the fat shaming -- "Butterball." Too bad weight is a class marker, making fat shaming poor tactics for a leftie.)

1. The post frames the issue as a conflict between states -- NJ vs MI -- where one state doesn't deserve what it gets. Tactically, this isn't real smart, since all critics need do is point to their very real suffering, which they did, and at length (hilariously and successfully reinforcing their claims to the funds the post takes issue with). Strategically, it's even less smart, because one of the real issues isn't why NJ got the money and MI (and NOLA) didn't, but why the political class within and across states makes the resource allocations it does and did (and the doctrine applied to allocations may vary with the location of the shock).

For example, (IIRC) NOLA was turned into a social laboratory by firing a lot of black teachers and trying to replace them with charters. And what could go wrong with enforcing yet another black diaspora? Will this happen in NJ?

For example, we might consider that the country is run by people who travel up and down the Northeast Corridor. NJ's suffering is real, but the political class sees it, in a way that they don't see the rest of the country. The very same process replicates itself in miniature in the New York area, as Manhattan gets relief ASAP, and Staten Island, the Rockaways, and public housing are left to suffer. "Out of sight, out of mind." True in this case?

For example, we might ask ourselves whether NJ's political class and local oligarchy are more effective than NOLA's on the national level, and if so, why? (Christie, after all, put the boot into Romney at the RNCon, which Jindal did not, and then sucked up to Obama very effectively.**)

Unfortunately, the "your state doesn't deserve the money it got" framing prevents any serious comparative analysis at all, even had it not generated more heat than light.

2. The post takes one class of resident as a proxy for the whole state (metonymy): "Wall St grandma." Obviously, this creates the same tactical problems as above: All the critics need do is point out that all NJ residents are not Wall Street Grandmas who live in Princeton, which they did, vociferously and at length. The tens of thousands of unemployed scientists in NJ are hardly "Wall Street grandmas." (And what's with the Grandma? Isn't "Wall Street" enough, without bringing age and gender into it?) Nor are most residents of Atlantic City, or Hoboken, or Newark, to which I commuted for some years. Trust me on this, Newark is not Princeton. The "your state doesn't deserve the money it got" framing again precludes any serious analysis.

3. The post opposes the state of NJ and "the rest of us" (forcefully underlining that opposition with "cough up"). Well, in what sense is a poor resident of Hoboken who needs relief, or an unemployed scientist who needs help repairing their home, not one of "us?" Tactically, this is foolish, since once again all the critics have to do is point to their real suffering, but strategically it's vacuous: If the post can't address the idea that people suffering disaster in NJ and people suffering disaster in MI or NOLA* are "us," as in some sense anyone who suffers as I do is my neighbor, then what hope is there for the left?

4. The post accepts triage under conditions of scarcity as the norm. Implicitly: "Their state got $36 billion, but my state should have, because our suffering is greater." But the assumption here is that there is only $36 billion (scarcity) and that the more "deserving" state should have it (triage). Not to say that choices don't have to be made, but we are, or should be, far from that point--

On scarcity, one of the themes Corrente has been pursuing for some time is MMT, which teaches that money is created for public purpose, and that government spending is not operationally constrained by revenues. So the money can be there for both NJ and MI -- surely, in both cases, the real economy would be improved! -- making the real question why the money isn't. But the post's framing means that question can't be asked, rendering it strategically vacuous once again.

On triage, here I am thinking of a link I cannot find, a post that Hipparchia did on Katrina, where we had in essence a controlled experiment between public and privatized institutions. At one hospital, the private one, the first thought of the administrators was which patients should be triaged, a process they carried out successfully, killing some of them. At the public hospital, the first thought was to save everyone, which they also did. My question here, is why the post is adopting the moral stance of a privatized hospital administrator? Because, apparently, the problem is not that everybody didn't get saved, but that the wrong people state got saved. Again, if this is a pervasive view on the left, is there hope?

Turning my attention to the critics:

It's fact of life in blogging that bad posts make for bad comment threads, since commenters tend to accept the initial parameters of the post, and not think critically about them. Here again the strategic vacuity of the post is damaging. The real question is this: Why is the public good not a normal part of discourse? (Why does relief for the Rockaways come from Occupy Sandy, for pity's sake?) Unfortunately, answering "NJ does so deserve the money" doesn't raise that question, though the critics do, effectively and at length, show why it does.

As soon as you start thinking of the public good, the common factor between NOLA, NJ, and MI*** snaps into focus: The lack of a common baseline for disaster relief. In fact, if you think like a ruling class looter, a common baseline is exactly what you don't want: If you want to implement Shock Doctrine tactics, then you want to maximize your opportunities for looting on the ground, and conditions on the ground will differ case by case. For example, a common baseline would save everybody in NOLA and NY/NJ, exactly as the public hospital did, and leave existing public structures intact. But that baseline would have prevented school privatization in NOLA, and would, if applied (here I put on my tinfoil hat) prevent privatizing NY public housing "because it's too expensive to fix them." That's why the red thread of neo-liberalism runs through all of this. Unfortunately, defending NJ's water towers makes the public good just as impossible to see and defend as assaulting Princeton's Wall Street Grandmas does. Crabs in a bucket, as I said.

So that is why I see a common thread between:

1. Hurricane Katrina in NOLA

2. Hurricane Sandy in NJ/NY

3. Hurricane Neo-Liberal in MI

In each case of disaster, slow moving or not, the public good is not a concern. And in NOLA and MI, citizens who under a humane system of governance would expect to have a competently delivered baseline of relief, were either abandoned entirely or treated like animals and herded into market state-style social experiments. NJ has not experienced these dubious pleasures as of yet, but my guess is that many people in Hoboken or Newark will experience the delivery of Christie's putative $36 billion quite differently from the post's Wall Street grandma in Princeton, and not because she's a grandma, or from Princeton, or from NJ (and not MI, or LA), but because she's from Wall Street. Here again is a question the post does not ask, and so the commenters do not ask.

* * *

This post makes the blog look bad. I can make the blog look bad all by myself without help from others, and I expect better. I am very, very disappointed (especially given stellar work in the past).

NOTE * Yes, "children are starving in China" or Africa or wherever. One deals with the polity of which one is a start. Ending the wars would be a good start for this country, since the wars support the mechanisms of social control that lead to starvation, among other things.

NOTE ** We think. The money isn't actually on the way yet, and gawd knows Obama's betrayed enough people in the past.

NOTE *** I understand the argument that treats MI as a slow-moving disaster, and hence not comparable to hurricanes, even metaphorically. Thinking about it, though, isn't this close to logic chopping? Conditions in MI have cascading consequences: Think of the old guy who froze to death in his house. Multiply that by a few thousand, and you'd have a "disaster." Maybe blankets could be helicoptered in, or whatever. But wouldn't it make more sense to address the conditions, instead of privileging the sudden and visible end product of the cascade?