September 03, 2004
Storms play politics, too
Posted by McQ
An interesting article by Marilyn Geewax in the AJC today about the timing of Hurricane Frances as it pertains to a national election. She makes some interesting points:
Hurricanes typically boost Florida's economy once rebuilding kicks into high gear. Homeowners upgrade damaged structures, putting in bigger bathrooms and better roofs. Construction jobs soar, and tourists eventually return.
But in the short run --- and that's all that's left before the Nov. 2 election --- hurricanes can cause enormous economic damage, shutting down businesses and driving up unemployment.
A new round of job losses in Florida could darken the nation's economic statistics and contribute to an increasingly sour mood.
Depending on how hard hit FL is by this hurricane and with its attendent short term negative economic impact, it could put the state in the Democrat column.
In a tight presidential election and with Florida too close to call, additional job losses could help shape the outcome. On the other hand, a hurricane gives the incumbent a chance to demonstrate his compassion for people who are hurting. Last week, President Bush said he would ask Congress for $2 billion to help Charley's victims. By the time Congress returns Tuesday, the request could be much higher because of Frances.
And success for the Republicans will be how soon it is provided and how well the state, under Republican Governor and brother Jeb Bush, gets the relief in place and the recovery underway.
As Geewax notes:
Economists say hurricanes generally follow a fairly predictable economic track. Initially, they drive up retail sales of emergency supplies. In recent days, retailers in South Florida reported huge sales of batteries, generators, plywood, ice chests, bottled water, propane and camp stoves.
But such sales can steal from the future. Money spent today on a generator can reduce a family's budget for back-to-school clothes and Christmas presents.
In the long run, however, hurricanes tend to spur people to upgrade their homes, as many did in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
But in this case, there is no "long-run" involved as it concerns politics. With FL a key battleground state, its going to be interesting to see how Bush and company handle Frances, or whether Frances ends up handling them.