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Superstorm Sandy—a People's Shock?

From R Street Institute

Naomi Klein describes me as a “mouthpiece for the insurance lobby” and suggests my organization’s advocacy of privatizing the bankrupt National Flood Insurance Program is motivated by the industry’s desire to remove a public sector competitor. While we would be delighted to see a politically powerful industry stand up for NFIP privatization, the reality is there is not a single major domestic insurance company that has ever taken that stance. Most insurers fear, with some justification, that NFIP privatization would result in regulators’ forcing them to underwrite risks they would rather avoid.

Ms. Klein also notes that the R Street Institute previously was a division of “the climate-denying Heartland Institute.” That is true, although it is misleading not to mention that we parted ways with Heartland specifically over the issue of global warming. In fact, were she to research the topic, Ms. Klein would discover that every major environmental organization supported legislation this year to reform and scale back the NFIP, and some—such as Friends of the Earth—have joined us in calling for full privatization.

Indeed, were she not so intent on limiting her post-Sandy search for malefactors solely to cases that appear to support her “Shock Doctrine” thesis, Ms. Klein might have cause to question the powerful interests—notably in the real estate and construction sectors—that have historically led the charge for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized property insurance, which has le]d directly to so much development in risk-prone and environmentally sensitive regions. Some of these same interests, joined by insurance agents and a few large domestic home insurers, are currently lobbying to expand the federal government’s role in subsidizing catastrophe insurance even further. We oppose this legislation, not because of who is for or against it but because it would be terrible for both taxpayers and the environment.

Ray Lehmann

Washington, DC

Nov 12 2012 - 3:52pm

Superstorm Sandy—a People's Shock?

Same old empty nostrum

As usual in Naomi Klein’s writing the cases are well researched and potentous; but as with a disheartening number of good writers on the left, the negative issues are well and numerously explicated but when she turns to possible ways of countering the perpetrators or mitigating the effects of their actions in any way, her ideas because so thin they virtually disappear. In this article she repeats the same disappointing and meaningless phrases of hundreds of other writers; to wit: we need to organize; we have a rare opportunity to have an effect if we organize. Besides being transparently obvious, the remarks have no more impact the hundredth time a left writer pens them than the first. Furthermore, they’re really misleading to readers who might imagine this is a genuine thought. The idea that there will be sufficient organizing in the next weeks and months to have significant impact on the the things you describe is virtually nonsensical. If people on the left want to be convincing, they need to cease including in every article or expose they write this boilerplate about stopping the pernicious effects of corporate or government behavior by “organizing,” and offering nothing beyond it.

Josh Wiesner

Cambride, MA

Nov 7 2012 - 6:13pm