Paying for Man-Made Disasters


2016-03-06 – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has blocked federal emergency assistance to residents of Flint, Michigan. This seems outrageous. The people of Flint are without drinkable water. We give emergency assistance to hurricane victims, earthquake victims, tornado victims, and flood victims. Are the residents of Flint less deserving? Are they too black?

That may be, but Sen. Lee has another point that is worth considering. In a statement the Senator released Friday, he said:

What is happening to the people of Flint, Michigan is a man-made disaster.

He went on to say that the state of Michigan has a budget surplus and can handle things on its own. In other words: they created this mess, they should pay to fix it. According to Sen. Lee, Michigan politicians are using the emergency to get their hands on federal money when they can very well handle things themselves.

The argument has a certain appeal.

And it is certainly contrary to custom to ask the people who create man-made disasters to pay for the cleanup. Normally, victims pay.

In my own City of Chicago, the political class and their cronies have been looting the city for decades. We’re borrowed up to our ears and the day of reckoning is upon us. The new political class wants the victims of the looting (i.e., the employees, the school children, the citizens) to pay the price. Wouldn’t it be more just if we could just get the money back from the looters? (Spoiler alert: it isn’t going to happen.)

Or consider the Iraq war—or the string of wars fought in the Middle East to protect big oil. We pay a big price for this. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get the money back from the profiteers? (Spoiler alert: it isn’t going to happen.)

Or while we’re on the subject of natural resources, what about global climate change? The folks who have been fighting against effective measures are responsible for a string of man-made natural disasters. Shouldn’t they bear some sort of price for that? (Spoiler alert: it isn’t going to happen.)

So, Sen. Lee, you may be onto a “concept,” but the result of blocking assistance to Flint, MIchigan is to prolong the disaster. I’m not against making the culprits pay. That is an idea that is worth considering, but it should not delay relief to the people who are without drinking water.

In the field of insurance, there is a concept called “subrogation.” If you suffer a loss, your insurance company pays you right away and then sues the people who caused the loss. Maybe we need a concept like that as part of federal disaster relief. The feds could pay now to restore water to Flint and then collect from the Michigan bad guys at a later date.

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