St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc., Louisiana's largest commercial insurance provider, plans to cancel all its commercial property policies in the New Orleans area next year, sparking fears that other insurers will follow and slow the region's economic recovery.First Draft points out the obvious for those who didn't catch it.
The importance of this can not be overstated. If there is no insurance there is no rebuilding. George Bush can claim the levees are hunky dory but NOLA residents do not have faith in them and now we see neither does the insurance industry.The debacle in Iraq, the elections, and a host of other political hot potatoes has drawn attention once again away from NOLA, but little has changed there. They definitely dodged a bullet this year when the expected rash of returning hurricanes didn't happen as workers continue to scramble to repair the levees. Every analysis we've seen through the summer and fall indicate that the repaired levees are not yet even up to the level of protection they offered before the Katrina catastrophe. And, may we remind you, that level was simply not enough to assure the survival of the city if they get hit with another one.
Could the problem be solved with enough money and political resolve? Probably... at least for a few decades, or possibly even the end of the century with a lot of luck. But not forever. The Mississippi is moving, as it's done for millennia. Nothing is going to stop it forever. The land is shifting and these are the types of forces you can't hold off indefinitely.
Ron and I have suggested on many occasions that it's time to give New Orleans back to the ocean and move the whole shooting match further upstream. The insurance companies have apparently recognized the fact that they're just going to keep taking a beating down there, and the loss of insurance is a death knell for commercial reconstruction. Do we blame the insurance companies for this and demonize them? I'm afraid not. They're in business to make money too, and you can't keep betting on a losing (or nearly dead) horse.
I have no suggestions or sage advice on the heels of this news beyond what we've been saying since Katrina. The fabulous comedian Lewis Black once made a comment about California shortly after an earthquake. He said, "I don't know about you, but where I was standing, the earth done quaketh. First it went up, then it went down. And when the earth does something like that, it's telling you something. Move! Get your kids, pack your shit and get out. Because you're living in a place where rodents should have sex and that's about it."
If you're living in a place where the earth is demonstrating a propensity to sink under the waves, you might consider that advice as well.