Will Stewing

When most people think of Florida, they think of Disney World, sandy beaches and orange juice. As hurricane season comes to a close and the election season reaches a fever pitch, I want to share what I think of when I hear Florida – the annoying link between tropical storms and politics. First, a story.

Once upon a time, three little pigs set out to make their way in the world. The first little pig built a house in Texas, the second little pig built a house in Wisconsin and the third little pig went to Florida, drained a swamp, built a very strong house on it and joined the local country club instead of saving money to rebuild in the event of a hurricane.

One day, the Big Bad Wolf came to the door of the first little pig and said, “little pig, little pig, there’s a tax on income!” The first little pig paid his taxes, as did the second and third pig.

Then one summer, as often happens in Florida, a hurricane hit and without even asking to come in, it huffed and puffed and destroyed the third little pig’s home. The little pig wasn’t seriously injured, but he had no money to rebuild his home and homeowners insurance didn’t cover the flooding.

Luckily, it was an election year and the Big Bad Wolf’s political party needed to win votes in Florida. The third little pig got some tax money, but instead of relocating to someplace higher-up and further inland, he used it to rebuild the house right where it had been. The other pigs didn’t like this, but during election season the Big Bad Wolf won by huffing and puffing and blowing smoke around the issue.

Three summers later, a hurricane destroyed the third pig’s home and he wanted money to rebuild it. This time, when the third little pig asked for money from Wolf, the other pigs objected, saying “not again for the hurr-o-caney cane canes!” The two little pigs huffed and puffed and blew the whistle on the Wolf.

Unsure of who to please, the Wolf spent time talking with his party strategists and learned that Wisconsin was a small swing state and Texas wasn’t a swing state at all. Florida, however, was a big, important swing state – even if it was a little vulnerable to hurricanes. So, he gave the money to the third pig knowing this would help his party in future elections.

When the pig got the money he set to work rebuilding in Florida. However, this time, the third little pig built a giant barrel that could withstand hurricanes by rolling with the howling wind or floating above the floodwaters.

Despite this improved design, the other two pigs were furious over the wasteful spending and decided to fight back by running for seats in Congress. They were elected and to this day whenever their colleagues use wasteful government spending to garner votes it is called “pork-barrel” spending – in honor of the third little porker’s home. Unfortunately the Wolf was re-elected and continued to give approval to wasteful spending, even to this day.

There is no real end to my story – not yet anyways. I suppose I could go onto make fun of “earmark spending” or have the two pigs in Congress earmark money to test the feasibility of straw houses in Texas and Wisconsin. However, this is about Florida.

It is often said that the only certain things in life are death and taxes, but in Florida the certainties are death, hurricanes and tax credits. It is ridiculous! I don’t mind if Floridians build in Florida, but I don’t want to pay for it!

Yes, Wisconsin gets lots of money to fix roads – roads that aid commerce and serve the public. Rebuilding homes in Florida doesn’t really serve anybody except the occupants. I’m not proposing they go homeless, but if you can’t afford to rebuild, then use the relief money to relocate and rebuild. Aside from Miami, there is nothing on the Florida peninsula that is vital to our national interests. Thus, there is no compelling reason to continue encouraging settlements by essentially subsidizing the costs of an inherent risk.

There are places that we should continue to rebuild, again and again. International trading and our addiction to oil make it necessary to inhabit the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, but even these places are safer than Florida.

According to the National Hurricane Center, 40 percent of all major hurricanes strike Florida and the five costliest hurricanes since 1900 have all struck some portion of the state.

Since 1851, 131 hurricanes have struck Florida, more than Louisiana and Texas combined. Granted, Florida does have a longer coastline, but right there is the problem: Florida is a narrow peninsula of low-lying swampland!

Who do these Floridians think they are? Bear Grylls? If you want to vacation in Florida, my suggestion is to buy a houseboat, that way when hurricanes threaten, you can move to calmer waters.

As I reflect on Florida’s unfortunate geography, I can’t help but think it is all too fitting that Flo Rida sang “Low.” Personally, I’m hoping he goes one step farther and writes a hurricane remix of “Low,” “Shawty had them swamp-bottom homes. Boats what they for? Country Clubs we’re all payin’ for! She hit the shore (laid houses low)! Now they want mo’ mo’ mo’ mo’ mo’ dough.”