In 2005, Hurricane Katrina displaced hundreds of thousands of City of New Orleans residents. Two hundred thousand Katrina refugees were relocated to Houston; the fourth largest city in the United States. Some 150 thousand never left and many are now being treated to the hospitality of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Ask most Houston residents if they would offer hospitality to future out-of-state storm refugees and I believe the majority would reply: “HELL NO!”
The City of Houston is living proof of the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished” and many U.S. Mayors have learned from Houston’s Katrina missteps. Almost immediately after Katrina refugees arrived, Houston Crime rates began to soar and both urban and suburban Texans realized that charity and benevolence is often taken for granted by its needy recipients. The long term effects are still being felt in Houston as New Orleans problems migrated to Texas.
Shortly after the second most expense natural disaster in U.S. history struck the Gulf Coast, the U.S. government began expanding hundreds of facilities across the U.S. (so called FEMA Camps) some say are designed to house Americans in the case of a national disaster crisis. Earlier this week some of the most densely populated states in America were decimated by super storm Sandy. Government officials are slowly but surely closing in on the hard reality that an unfathomable number of storm Sandy victims are going to need a place to live while their communities are rebuilt. Where will they go? What affordable real estate is available to house these people? Winter is right around the corner and you can’t live without shelter in the Northeast. Perhaps FEMA Camps will now become the federal government’s new answer for storm refugee housing?
I’m not suggesting that U.S citizens be relocated to concentration style/emergency management camps, but the residents of the East Coast would do well to consider that it may be an option for our federal government. It will take a least a decade for the East Coast to refurbish damaged cities and communities; initial estimates (which are always grossly understated) are in the $50 billion plus category. Nothing is quick or cheap up north, and this storm couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Given that the East Coast is big government/union country with building codes that are harder to translate than hieroglyphics, I don’t expect the recovery to take years, but decades. Don’t believe me? Just look at the World Trade Center/Freedom Tower Project. Yesterday, the union versus merit shop turf battle began in the hard hit State of New Jersey. According to some reports help from non-union utility workers sent from benevolent southern states is being refused. Apparently and regardless of need, non-union labor cannot be allowed to perform disaster assistance in the union dominated northeast.
Staten Island, N.Y. (one of five N.Y.C. Burroughs) is now home to over 400,000 very wet and very desperate people. From the looks of it, few of them (if any) will be allowed to stay in their homes once the EPA and local Health Departments start assessing the damage. Now consider that millions more on the East Coast could be in a similar predicament and they are dependent on bankrupt federal government to solve their problems. No one is talking about it, but like it or not I believe that relocation to FEMA camps has become a real possibility for many economically stranded Americans.
East Coast storm victims (like many 2005 Gulf Coast residents) may buy the government line “we are in this together”. The may want to believe that Uncle Sam is going to give them a fresh start and a new beginning and they may be right. Just remember that precedent exists for that new start to be determined by a government that is over its heads in debt. I would warn the East Coast that in 2005 Katrina displaced a fraction of the population affected by Storm Sandy. At that time the national debt wasn’t greater than the gross domestic product; and 23 million Americans weren’t unemployed.
The Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, seems to know what’s coming down his pike. I’m sure he is asking himself the same questions I have posed in this article and from his facial expression I think he got his answer while strolling down the Jersey Shore with President Obama.
Enjoy the marathon.