Student loans

Damage in Florida can be compared to student debt

In the October 5 column for everyone, there was a review of a News editorial cartoon mocking Governor Ron DeSantis. The writer was upset about comparing student loans to disaster relief in Florida. Now, let’s be clear, I doubt the cartoon was about humanitarian aid.

The idea that student loans and the cost of reconstruction are not a fair comparison is wrong. Yes, the students have voluntarily chosen to incur the expenses of higher education. But didn’t these people voluntarily choose to live near the shore, on a barrier island, or close enough to the beach to be threatened by storm surges? They chose to assume the risk of catastrophic damage in part because they assumed the federal government would be there to underwrite some of their risk. He’s right, we don’t get help clearing snow, why would they get help for dangerous development investments? More importantly, what is the benefit of helping them rebuild versus the benefit of helping bright students go to college. It is clear that students provide a return on our investment; they contribute to the gross domestic product, they help us stay technologically competitive. We tend to forget that for every person with a college education in the United States, China has a PhD.

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Florida has a thriving tourist business. But if the tourism industry can’t afford to cover the risk of continual hurricanes, why should the federal government continually subsidize it? We have a catastrophic disaster and we need to help them, but we shouldn’t help them make the same mistakes. If they wish to do so, fine, it is their risk and that of Florida. We need to help them move to where building codes can protect their homes from the wind. We have for years built anti-flood devices for places that are too close to waterways. In some cases, when it was too expensive to protect, we moved communities. We should do the same in Florida or we’ll be back next year with the same problem.