Hurricane Katrina Recovery: The Price of Rebuilding

President Bush and a number of other politicians are pushing for a huge rebuilding campaign for the devastated gulf coast region. Bottom figure estimates have the rebuilding costs pegged at 200 billion dollars while some have said that when it is all said and done the project will exceed one trillion dollars. Certainly, this will be the most massive renewal project ever undertaken in the history of the world. Can we afford this project? How will we pay for it? All Americans need to consider what this project will mean before giving their okay. Will politicians listen? It certainly remains to be seen.

We have all been captivated by the human drama that has unfolded before our very eyes since Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore this past August. People plucked off of their roof tops by the U.S. Coast Guard, children separated from their parents, bedlam at the Superdome, bodies floating in streets throughout the ninth ward, and more. These are some of the images we have all seen. Only a hard heart could fail to be affected in some way by the scenes we have witnessed on our televisions.

Within a few weeks, calls to rebuild the gulf coast region have been mentioned by President Bush and other leading politicians and echoed throughout the media. Many have stated that we cannot allow a major American city to remain destroyed, that rebuilding must occur. At any cost, at any price.

Personally, I hope that a certain amount of debate happens before funds are earmarked. So far, no actual amount has been mentioned, which is causing me to hold on to my wallet for dear life. No, I am not against helping people. What I do oppose is rebuilding in areas that are prone to future devastation and loss of life. Quite frankly, I do not know if there is an amount of money we could spend — even if we had it — that would protect area residents should a repeat performance ever occur, which is likely to happen once again.

Some questions I want to see asked include:

How many people who left New Orleans really want to go back? The latest figures I have seen is that about half do and half do not want to return. Does that mean that we should build a city on the same scale as the old New Orleans, or not?

What are the long term effects of the toxic cesspool? Will the soil permanently contain contaminants that could adversely effect the health of residents?

The current levee system is inadequate. Doesn’t it make sense to have a new system in place before massive rebuilding commences?

Who will have authority over the funds? Local and state politicians whose prior management of the area is suspect to say the least? The federal government? An independent agency? Who?

Will we be able to divert funds from pork projects now slated to be funded? I have heard of two bridges in Alaska that are essentially bridges to nowhere. Are U.S. senators and congressmen willing to sacrifice personal pork projects to pay for this project?

How about cutbacks in military expenditures to help fund the project? No, I am not talking about cutbacks to Iraq, but why do we still have such a large troop presence in Europe? The cold war ended more than fifteen years ago, isn’t Europe able to defend itself?

I realize some of these questions may appear to be insensitive, but they need to be asked. An emotional response to the devastation coupled with a blank check will likely mean that our children and grandchildren will be paying the tab, perhaps long after many of us are gone.

I really hope that we can think all of this through. My fear is that we won’t and that we will saddle future generations with an awful burden.

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