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Risk-takers can't always depend on taxpayer help

Risk-takers can't always depend on taxpayer help

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Those who take risks should pay for those risks through higher insurance premiums and not count on taxpayers to bail them out.

Americans will always be there to help when unexpected catastrophes occur, but we should insist that people personally accept future financial responsibility if they live in disaster-prone areas or build below sea level.

Unfortunately, our desire for humane treatment of those who are devastated by natural disasters doesn't provide incentives for relocating.

The Gulf Coast is a prime example. Those who enjoy the gulf beaches and water know they are flirting with danger from hurricanes and their water surges. Stricter building codes help, but even in Florida where stricter codes have been in effect since Hurricane Andrew there is still widespread damage when hurricanes blow ashore.

Gulf Coast residents are not alone in risking nature's wrath. In parts of California, people build where there are frequent wildfires or earthquakes. In the Midwest, people continue to build in flood plains.

We increase the problem when tax dollars are used to cover the costs of rebuilding. Without assurance that taxpayers will financially take care of them after a catastrophe, reasonable people might question whether they want the financial risk of living in high-risk areas.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert caught flak when he suggested that maybe New Orleans should not be rebuilt where it is in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He later backed off, but he should not have. He posed a legitimate question that deserves a good airing Why rebuild in an area susceptible to more flooding? Would the massive residential rebuilding occur in the same locations without taxpayer help?

Maybe the tax money being poured into hurricane relief should be used to permanently relocate victims. It was just a dozen years ago that the entire Illinois village of Valmeyer in the Mississippi River bottom was relocated with federal, state, local and private funding. Valmeyer was built from scratch on 500 acres about two miles east of - and more importantly 400 feet higher than - of its original location upriver from Alton.

The village had extensive flooding in 1910, 1943 and 1944 and then went years without major flooding because of new levees. Unfortunately, the levees weren't built to withstand the "Great Flood of 1993," and the village was wiped out.

We're not suggesting New Orleans could be relocated like a village of 900 people, but relocating people from at least some coastal areas of Mississippi and Louisiana hard hit by Hurricane Katrina should be an option that is discussed instead of spending billions of taxpayer dollars to help people rebuild in the same vulnerable spots.


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