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Katrina victims victimize US taxpayers

Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita was a terrible tragedy when it devastated the city of New Orleans and the Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi coastline. But you know, Hurricane Katrina wasn't my fault (even though Al Gore thinks it was). Nor was it yours.

If I was looking for "someone" to blame for the financial loss suffered by the businesses and home owners of New Orleans, I'd have to blame the imbeciles who bought their homes or businesses in obvious flood plains that are so hazardous that none of the people buying that real estate could buy flood insurance to cover them from that type of natural disaster. When you can't buy flood insurance, what does that tell you?

Very clearly, before they bought their home, they should have been told that if a category 4 or 5 hurricane slammed into the city, the odds would be better than even in a coin toss that, in a worst case scenario, a lot of homes might float out to sea—or, at best, become the temporary abode of various types of fresh water and/or salt water fish, alligators and all types of snakes and other reptiles seeking sanctuary. Under water long enough and its likely that standing river water or Gulf water would destroy the foundation of the dwelling and cause it to be condemned. Whoops—that's what happens every time a hurricane threatens the Gulf of Mexico.

So why should the taxpayers of the United States—who were smart enough not to buy a home in a city where the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico are higher than the land where the homes were built—be responsible for the stupidity of those who knew the potential personal risk when they bought a home near a river they would have to climb a ladder to swim?

Before my wife and I bought our home, we bought blueprints for the "dream home" we were going to build. We scouted around for the right piece of land. We found a developer who was selling seven to ten area tracts in a proposed "estate" subdivision that was advertised as what would be a "river view community." (That means a community that's a mile or more from the nearest river.) The seven-acre tract we looked at was $35,000. (The 1.25 acre lot under the home we bought cost the original owner $70,000.) Why the difference? Because the seven-acre tract in the proposed "river view" community was in a flood zone. And while that particular parcel of land had not flooded "in recent memory," flood insurance not available. (The lot flooded the following year.)

Tens of thousands of former New Orleans residents have filed claims against the City of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and the US government for astronomical amounts of money that they somehow think they are due because they bought homes in an area where enough water to drown them passed over their heads daily. Two hundred forty-seven claims from residents and business owners—and city and State government agencies—have been filed against the US Army Corps of Engineers who have been responsible for the levees since 1965 after Hurricane Betsy. Under the Democratically-controlled Congress, the bureaucrats saddled the Army Corps of Engineers with the Flood Control Project of 1965 (also known as Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project). On paper, the job was supposed to take 13 years. Once the engineers began, they realized the job would take 50 years to complete, not 13. But politicians do that. Their constituents will buy a 13-year plan but not a 50 year plan. The Army Corps of Engineers knew the job would not be completed until around 2015. When Katrina hit, the levee system—designed to protect against a Category 4 storm—was around 70% complete. The levee breached in six places—three times in the 9th Ward.

Over the past ten decades greedy developers attempted to claim more land from the Gulf of Mexico to expand New Orleans. Engineers who should have known better claimed thousands of acres of swampland from the Mississippi River and from the Gulf delta. Nevertheless, because developers dreamed the impossible dream, the average claim by each displaced person who has sued the federal government is over a billion dollars. In all, 489 thousand claims have been filed for property loss due to the flooding, the loss of life and property in the post-flood chaos should fall squarely on the City of New Orleans which not only did not protect its citizens from looting and mayhem, but whose cops where actually videotaped by news agencies actually participated in the looting of the city.

The claims, when totaled, are so massive that all of the governments of the world combined couldn't pay them. The lawsuits are puzzling since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused only $100 billion in physical damage throughout the entire State of Louisiana. The federal government set aside $130 billion to pay for the recovery. But greedy lawyers see a good payday by filing contingency lawsuits, hoping Louisiana's liberal judges will award them a lottery-type windfall judgment and they can retire as Katrina billionaires at my expense—and yours. Just remember, anytime someone sues the federal government, they aren't suing the bureaucrat who sits in an office in Washington twiddling his thumbs, they are suing us—the taxpayers of the United States. We're the ones who have to pay the bill.

Most of the claims allege that the fault for the flooding of New Orleans lies solely with the Army Corps of Engineers who should have known the levees would not hold. The suits also allege that steps should have been taken years earlier to reinforce the levee system sufficiently to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 catastrophe. Of course, everyone thought someone else should pay for a levee system that should never have been built in the first place. Stupid people always think that not only is the impossible possible, but someone other than themselves should be financially responsible when nature intervenes to prove that man—in all of his infinite wisdom—can't harness nature. New Orleans was an engineering nightmare waiting to happen. What the city of New Orleans should have done In 1965 was condemn the entire Lower 9th Ward, bulldozed the houses, bring in enough top soil to to make the 9th Ward level with the top of the levees, and then do the same along the entire levee system. If they had, the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina and Rita would have been solved. But that would have placed the cost of the solution squarely on the back of the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana—where it rightly belongs. And, since they created the impossible problem, they alone should be obligated to pay for the mess they created.

One idiot is seeking a personal claim for $3 quadrillion in damages (that's $3,000,000,000,000,000.00—15 zeros—a sum so large its meaningless). Most of it is for the personal injury suffered by the plaintiff. Another equally stupid New Orleans resident from the hard-hit Lower 9th Ward (which was comprised of badly neglected "shotgun" homes sued for $6 trillion). Apparently both of these people still believe in Santa Claus. Shotgun homes are one story dwellings where one room is directly behind the room in front, with no hallways. Usually the front room is the living room, followed by the kitchen with one bedroom with a bathroom behind it. Shotgun homes—in real good condition—might sell in the $40 to $50 thousand range.) I don't think every home and business in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida that suffered any type of physical damage by Katrina and Rita, multiplied by six could justify a $6 trillion claim even with a pain and suffering thrown in (which of course implies someone had to be deliberately negligent for a plaintiff to qualify for pain and suffering.).

The 9th Ward was 98.3% African American. With a poverty level of 36.4%. The average annual income in the 9th Ward was $10 thousand. There were 781 homes in the 9th Ward. Fourteen percent of them were unoccupied when Katrina hit. Of the occupied dwellings, 60% were owner-occupied. Tragically, the poorest people in New Orleans were the hardest hit. Because of the dilapidated condition of the dwellings, most of the homes in the 9th ward should have been condemned and torn down—and not replaced—years ago.

Someone—whatever lawyers are taking the bulk of the cases of indigent home owners and tenets who lost what belongings they possessed in the flood on a contingency basis—are giving these people some real bad advise, since the frivolous claims are not going to be litigated. Those lawsuits are very likely going to be thrown out. Not even a social progressive judge can justify claims for hundreds if not thousands of times the value of property lost.

New Orleans is a city that should never have grown beyond its Civil War era southern perimeter because most of the modern city is below sea level. Now, if New Orleans was a city located in Nevada or even Kansas, that wouldn't mean a whole lot. But, when the Mississippi River runs through the city—and is 15 to 18 feet higher than the city it passes through, someone with more than a pea for a brain should have seen the potential for disaster and said, "Hey, guys, this is stupid." But the social progressives, who believe all things are possible if you tax the people enough, decided that 23 foot tall levees would solve the problem even though the Army Corps of Engineers warned them that the levees would break if New Orleans was ever hit with a Category 5 storm. In point of fact, Katrina was a very strong Category 4 storm. And, of course, to any good lawyer worth his salt, that's cause for a lawsuit. The engineers could not outguess nature.

Aside from the top two individual claims by 9th Ward residents (which totaled $3,006,000,000,000.00 for property collectively was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.00), all of the remaining claims total about $12 trillion—twice the nation's annual operating budget. Ashton O'Dwyer, a New Orleans lawyer handling some of the claims told the media that ultimately those making outrageous claims are going to have to provide evidence to support their claims for damages. But, he added, "We won't know the real total until that happens." Like all good lawyers, O'Dwyer thinks the damages may well be in excess of the amounts sought.

Spoken like a real tort turd. If I was the State or federal judge assigned to hear those cases, I would dismiss every outrageous lawsuit with prejudice, fine the attorneys for filing frivolous lawsuits and wasting the court's time, and refer them to their State Board for discipline and the possible suspension of their law licenses.

When you consider buying a house in a flood plain—particularly when the river is 12 feet over your head—logic has to tell you that even though it hasn't flooded since 1965, the storm of the century can be sitting someone off the coast of Africa just waiting for you to sign the contract on your new New Orleans home. You don't buy a house when there's a risk of the river over your head crashing through your roof. Before you sign the contract, you're told you can't get flood insurance. That means if there's a flood, its your loss. A smart person walks away from that deal. A dumb one buys a home under the river and hopes it won't rain.

When the rain comes and the levees break, its not my fault. Nor is it the fault of the other taxpayers of the United States who were smart enough not to buy a home under a river. Although it's tragic, the government does not owe those victims a dime. Nor does it owe them $3,018,000,000,000.00—particularly when the Bush-43 Administration pledged $130 billion to cover the $100 billion in actual damages. So when CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN start their Katrina "follow-up" election specials to show you that the poor people displaced by Hurricane Katrina are still homeless—and they blame the Republicans for that fact—remember that the money to rebuild New Orleans is sitting in the bank, but the residents who lost their $50 thousand 9th Ward homes want you and me to give them a quadzillion dollars.

Oh, and by the way—the next time someone offers you a deal on some New Orleans riverfront property, just make sure you don't have to climb a ladder to see the river. Well, once again, you have my two cents worth on this subject.


Just Say No
Copyright © 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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