Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The benefits of union

An excellent article by the AP's Adam Geller on New York's massive flood protection challenges holds up Houston's Texas Medical Center, which was devastated by Hurricane Allison in 2001, as a shining example of an institution that learned from experience:
A review of the area's flood weaknesses led officials to create a list of 112 projects, including widening the bayou and building culverts that funnel water away from the campus. But many of the projects were based on acknowledging that even if planners couldn't ensure that all the water from a future storm would stay out, they could at least work to limit the damage.

TMC's member hospitals moved their electrical vaults and backup generators out of basements to areas above flood level. They rejiggered the way they used their space, rebuilding and moving facilities like research labs, many of which were destroyed by the flood, to higher floors. Scores of existing buildings were fitted with flood gates, and new buildings were built surrounded by berms. Underground tunnels were outfitted with 100 submarine doors, some 12 feet tall.
 Nice planning, guys!  And who paid?

The bill was $756 million, paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, not including millions more spent on the public works projects.
Ah, Texas -- no-doubt grateful beneficiary of federal largess.  And not for the first time.  Back in June, Paul Krugman compared Texas' enviable position as one of fifty United States with the far more precariously positioned Spain, member of the not-so-united Eurozone.  The upshot:
Something I’ve been looking at: Texas after the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

The cleanup from that crisis cost taxpayers about $125 billion (pdf), back when that was real money. As best I can tell, around 60 percent of the losses were in Texas (pdf). So that’s around $75 billion in aid — not loans, outright transfer.

Texas GDP was about $300 billion in 1987. So this was equivalent to giving — not lending, not even taking an equity stake — Spain 25 percent of its GDP to bail out its banks.
Someone tell the secession petitioners.

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