Taxpayers will pay the price for earthquakes

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

When the big one finally hits us in California it won’t be the insurance companies who’ll pick up the multi-billion-dollar cost to rebuild out homes and cities – it will be you, the American taxpayer.

This is a lesson we’re learning from New Orleans, where the mayor has assured displaced residents of areas of the city deemed very vulnerable to another hurricane that he will not stand in their way should they choose to rebuild their demolished houses, even though they would most likely be destroyed if another Katrina comes along.

Now that’s bad enough, but the generous Mayor Nagin did not stop there. He urged those residents to take advantage of a buyout program that would pay them up to $150,000 for their property. Need I tell you who’s going to foot that bill?

Email newsletter signup

It won’t be insurance companies – most of the residents in the affected area didn’t have flood insurance. Do you need to be told that it’s you, the taxpayer, who’ll shell out that $150,000 or so?

Here in California we don’t worry about hurricanes, broken levees or blizzards. We worry about earthquakes. Every once in a while the earth shivers and shakes, and buildings and bridges and highways come crashing down. The last big one was 12 years ago, in 1994. We can protect ourselves from having to pay the ruinous cost of rebuilding our homes after a massive quake by buying earthquake insurance, just as the people of New Orleans could have protected themselves from Katrina by buying flood and windstorm insurance.

The problem with earthquake insurance is the cost – which is huge. Because it is so expensive, fully 86 percent of Californians cross their fingers, hope that they’ll be spared from a ‘quake and, as a result, don’t buy ‘quake insurance.

Does that make them worry that they might be destroyed financially and left homeless in the event of an earthquake against which they were not insured? As the folks in New Orleans are learning, there’s no need to worry. Who needs insurance when the government is willing to pay the cost of their failure to buy insurance?

In 1996, the number of folks in California not insured against quakes was 65 percent. Now, as memories of the last earthquake fade, that figure has jumped to 86 percent, which means only 14 percent of us in the most earthquake-prone state in the Union are insured against another quake – a quake that’s sure to come.

That 86 percent, however, are not shooting craps, hoping the inevitable quake won’t occur. They rest easy in the knowledge that you, the taxpayer, will step in and make them whole.

In New Orleans they had good reason for putting their faith in the government. They understand that the politicians lust after the vote of African Americans, and since the majority of the population in New Orleans is black – or “chocolate” as their idiot mayor calls them, they know that Uncle Sam will be there, with his checkbook handy, to try to buy their votes with taxpayer money.

Here in California we are fully aware of our enormous political clout. We know how much the politicians of both parties yearn to win our votes, which go a long way towards electing a president. We send more members of Congress to Washington than any other state.

And we know that in order to stay in our good graces, the pols will take the rubber band off the federal bankroll and pick up the cost of any earthquake or other natural disaster, giving us low-cost loans and other goodies. So why spend all that money for earthquake insurance?

After all, we’re in good hands with Uncle Sam.

-Mike Reagan, the eldest son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is heard on more than 200 talk radio stations nationally as part of the Radio America Network.