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The heartless take on hurricane recovery

We made it to the end of this trying week. We have put August in the rear view mirror. Except it’s a new month but the same old Chronicle. They just can’t help themselves! About three weeks ago, I did an entire episode about how disrespectful it was that US Senator Rick Scott visited Citrus County in person to discuss a bill regarding student safety as school began and the Chronicle instead went with a front page story about the sprawl of litter, burying the Senator Scott story on page B1. I said at the time that the senator is unlikely to come back if he finds out our local media prioritizes trash over his appearances.


Well, I was wrong. He came back, as a good representative should to survey the damage, it’s more than some TV crews did if you read the Facebook comments people have been making. And how does the Chronicle treat him when he’s tee-ing up a shot at redemption? One picture, buried inside on page A6, and the front page is…trash! Okay, it’s John and Amy Messer’s belongings, but even they say in the caption that most of the stuff is going to be replaced so I’m calling it at the very least debris. Come on Chronicle! Once is a mistake, twice is a pattern, we can’t keep prioritizing trash over Senator Rick Scott.


I know some of you are probably cheering on the Chronicle for this, but I’m a huge fan of Sen. Scott’s. Here’s a crazy stat: one quarter of all the votes cast in a Republican statewide primary election come from the Tampa Bay media market. 25% of all the votes in the state from this one area! The state is huge! So in 2010, when I first met Mike Prendergast, it’s also when I first met Rick Scott when he was on the campaign trail spending lots of time in Tampa Bay for now obvious reasons and I got to know him a little bit on a personal level. The former Florida First Lady Ann Scott once told me I look like a young Bill Gates, which in hindsight I hope she meant because I exude confidence and intellect and not because I actually looked like a young Bill Gates, but I think the bowl cut may have been the reason. Anyway, it’s amazing to have seen Senator Scott’s transition from spiteful ignored longshot candidate to first-time elected official through the economic recovery and now it’s really understated how well he’s transitioned from being the chief executive to being the lowest on the totem pole in terms of Senate leadership. He’s much more team player, almost grandfatherly, but you can tell he still has that dog in him as the kids say, if he ever were to want to go back to the executive branch. Ahem, Ahem, Scott 2028. However you slice it, we need to stop treating him like trash, no, I take that back, the Chronicle is treating trash better. We need to stop treating him like whatever worse than trash is.


Coincidentally today’s Chronicle editorial is a follow up to that litter story that won the front page several weeks back. It’s a fine read. You can skip the Just Wright Citrus piece this morning though. Even talented people have off days and today’s word salad is just a space filler, that’s okay.


In fact, if you’re going to spend time with any local media today besides this show, head on over to Citrus County Live’s Facebook page and watch their video about the recovery. It’s excellent and great job to Digital Hound Media, Ryan and Krystal with that piece. Today we’re going to be talking about the role of government in hurricane recovery, so let’s start with that now.


You’ve heard all the descriptions of people’s reactions to the storm damage. My heart aches, but my heart is full when I see the way we’ve come together to help each other out. Well, maybe it’s because my Florida Gators got crushed last night, but by the end of this episode you might think I’m heartless.


It’s not the federal government’s place to help individuals recover from natural disasters. Whoa, but Bobby, we’re waiting on that FEMA money. And FEMA should exist to help state governments get resources to local governments to rebuild affected infrastructure or other public needs vital to conducting a civil society, but the idea of FEMA paying you for losses is not one I can easily embrace. I did not try for nor did I receive FEMA money when I was flooded out in 2016.


This strong stance might have you poking holes in my argument already, and there are plenty there to poke. For starters, I’ve said in past episodes that the singular role of government is to protect its people. At the time, what I was saying government can do to protect them is require cross access to businesses, but now I’m saying government shouldn’t step in and monetarily assist people who have lost everything? That hardly seems consistent with my premise.


The fact is though that there are corporate and community safety nets in place that I don’t really see the government needing to take an active role in it. The corporate safety net is, of course, insurance. And if you immediately roll your eyes and think, what a bureaucratic nightmare, then you think the government getting involved is the answer to streamlining that? I don’t think so. But insurance will fight you every step of the way, yes they will, and why? Because they know you’ll fight less once you get some recovery from the government.


Corporate welfare is a huge problem. There was a bombshell report that came out about 10 years ago that over 50% of Walmart employees were on medicaid, making less than $25,000 per year. Walmart also always has the highest rate of law enforcement calls in any area where they are. This is a corporation using public entities as its health care system and security force, just like insurance companies will use FEMA as hoping to offset the compensation people receive, or at least perceive to receive, from their natural disaster losses.


This is an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. Now, the number one reason our insurance rates are so expensive in Florida is because of our lack of tort reform. Fighting frivolous lawsuits accounts for a huge chunk of your premium. The legislature finally took steps to combatting this in a special session last year but it’s going to take time to show the effects.


But another big reason is because of these natural disasters, and while flood insurance is separate from homeowners insurance, and while hurricanes can devastate in-land areas and coastal areas alike, there’s little argument against that being on or close to the water puts you at greater risk. It just does. I’m not blaming people who choose to live there. I’m not saying we should stop building on the water. But I am saying that those who do take that risk should not expect the government’s role to be to take care of you when things go south, especially not the federal government. Heartless today, it’s like that old saying, if you’re young and a conservative then you don’t have a heart. Of course, the end of that saying is if you’re old and a liberal then you don’t have a brain, and that’s why this makes sense to me.


I hope our elected officials to everything they can to hold insurance companies accountable just like they are having success in minimizing frivolous lawsuits against them, and I know that our community will step up, the United Way has taken point on this as they have in the past for individuals, the Chamber is working with them on the business recovery side, and familiar faces to community improvement like Leon McClellan are ever-present such as the BBQ he and his group of volunteers like school board member Joe Faherty, the day after Deputy Faherty’s birthday, will be serving meals. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Waiting on that government handout though, insisting that FEMA needs to come through for the little guy, I’ve been there, felt what it’s like to want the help, to want someone to take care of me, but ultimately think the line needs to be drawn somewhere and I’m drawing it here. Okay, I’m off to write a check to the United Way to live up to my side of this argument, I’m praying for the recovery to all those affected, amazed by all those helping, and have a great weekend.


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