Calaveras Enterprise

Taxpayers on the hook for Harvey

Crying aloud.

Suffering or not, there are things to be said about Houston’s plight after Hurricane Harvey.

For one thing, the 1,000-year flood loomed as a likely event, and the Texas Tribune had reported on its likelihood. In the scuffle of opinions over climate change, scientists predicted the flood that Houston incurred.

The Obama administration worked to fortify towns and cities against the devastations in store for places like Houston, but 10 days before Harvey, President Donald Trump smashed the flood safety rules of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.

Houston officials had ignored predictions, bypassed regulations, blasted commonsense environmental regulations, denied climate change, rebuked the flood risks and, in short, heightened its misery. Now, Houston, Jericho’s twin city, lies in wet ruin.

Houston, in the past 30 years, developed 50 percent of its wetlands that promised to take pressures off the flooding Houston would endure. Wrong decision after wrong decision, Houston was steadfastly antediluvian and anti-climate change.

Who will rebuild Houston? If the rain that fell was an act of God, God’s to blame, but even Houston’s megachurches are reluctant to lend their full hands. Trump could act and sell off $1.6 billion in his assets to be Houston’s rebuilder. No, the job of rebuilding Houston will fall to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies whose budgets are created from tax dollars.

Who will pay? Who is the biggest taxpayer in America? California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, bigger than the other 49 states combined. Uncle Sam pockets more taxes from California to fund FEMA and other agencies than all other states combined. The California taxpayer will shoulder the lion’s share of the cost of rebuilding flood-flippant Houston.

Climate change denial and free-market land-use planning cost tax dollars. That’s as much an irony as Trump’s pen that shaved flood safety rules days before Harvey hit Houston. What remains to be seen in the upshot is if Houston and the state of Texas have learned anything from this experience.

As Houston rebuilds, will the city use the now-defunct Obama-era flood safety rules and regulations to rebuild, or just use California’s tax dollars?

Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas brooked an answer. He introduced a bill to undo the low-cost federal flood insurance plan for everyone. Victims of Houston’s denial and bad urban planning will no longer be covered by affordable insurance, if they rebuild to Houston’s flood-denying rules.

Crying aloud, more rain and a flood of tears.

Bud Hoekstra is an organic farmer in Glencoe. You can reach him at

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