Is it austerity thinking that prevents us from preparing for natural disasters? Or is the simple arithmetic of limiting taxes on corporations and investors bankrupting our ability to make or execute public safety plans?
June 1 is the first day of hurricane season. Emergency management officials caution that a “below average” year does not mean that the one that hits your community will not be THE BIG ONE.
Dr. Rick Knabb of the National Hurricane Center: “None of the forecasts, warnings, and emergency evaluation instructions will be as effective as they need to be if individuals, families, and business owners have not prepared in advance for what they need to do.” (1) And what about the preparation that governments need to do?
In the April Think Progress article, “ Big Insurance Companies Are Warning the US to Prepare for Climate Change” by Emily Atkin (2) reports on the SmarterSafer report that was painfully accurate in predicting current events.
“With the federal government taking on such an enormous share of the financial burden and nearly all recovery responsibility, there is little incentive for disaster-prone states to take action to reduce risk,” the report says. “For example, disaster-prone states like Texas and Louisiana are among those spending the least of their state budget on emergency response and mitigation programs that can reduce disaster costs.”
It is true that the cost of preparation can be formidable but certainly less than not preparing. The difference: who pays.
In example, The Las Vegas Valley Water Authority has spent millions on infrastructure designed to manage flash floods in the Valley and Clark County. This kind of activity is a logical part of a comprehensive water management program. So why do so many areas at risk not prepare?
It is my opinion that as long as multinational corporations and their investors consider themselves citizens of a world economy and NOT citizens of this country, state, or community, they will feel no obligation to contribute to the collective ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. And they will continue to use the austerity myth to convince us that it is always someone else who should pay – even if it means paying with their lives.