Last weekend, Florida suffered through Hurricane Irma, a historic storm that covered the state in life-threatening weather conditions. Although less destructive than feared, the hurricane killed dozens, destroyed as-yet uncounted properties, and left millions without power.
In recent years, Florida and its booming business interests have undone government efforts to regulate emergency responses. In the Miami area, three cranes collapsed in the hurricane-force winds. Ten years ago, real-estate developers successfully fought Miami’s efforts to impose stricter safety regulations on cranes.
Many major insurance companies no longer provide homeowner’s insurance in Florida partly due to “unhelpful state regulators.” This means that property owners will be relying on a number of smaller insurance companies to repair their damaged homes. Many of these insurance companies may not themselves have sufficient funds to meet the incredible demand, and will instead need to rely on the shadowy reinsurance market.
And, perhaps most immediately and dangerously for many Floridians, millions of homes and businesses have no power. This means citizens are suffering without air conditioning, fresh food, or means of communication. Nursing home residents in particular are vulnerable to the potential health consequences of overheating and undernourishment—at least six have died and hundreds are requiring evacuation. Yet Florida has been lax in enforcing rules requiring nursing homes to have emergency power plans.
These immediate consequences of a pro-business, anti-regulation culture are framed by the federal government’s own unwillingness to confront the implications of deregulation on emergency management. The public and media are now debating the appropriateness of EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s claim that it is “very insensitive” to discuss climate change at this time. Miami’s Republican mayor, for one, disagrees.
What do you think? Has Florida’s culture of deregulation worsened Hurricane Irma’s effects?
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